Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Boosted morale

While I am definitely wishing there were more opportunities for field work, for going to see what’s happening on the ground somewhere like St. Lucia, I know it’s just not in the cards right now. That is unless they urgently need a communications person in Montserrat, since my boss is afraid of very small planes. I have accepted office work as a by-product of working in an office operating out of a relatively high-income country and working in medium-income small island nations. Last week, while my supervisor Patrick was in and out of St. Lucia, I got tasked by the Deputy Representative to map all the available data/social indicators for all ten countries for the Rep to bring to a regional meeting in Panama this week. Let’s just say my math competencies have forcefully been revived from near demise. But I did get a bunch of positive feedback, which is nice since you can only pat yourself on the back so often.

And I wrote my first press release (a sign of confidence from Patrick, I hope) last week!

This week, I finally finished my first draft of the social media strategy for the office, and I did not expect myself to be in such a good mood about handing it over to Patrick. Let me just say, this document is a beautiful thing. Apparently I’m supposed to make a presentation to the programme staff and Representative about it shortly. In the meantime, at least I am starting to tick off more of the tasks on my work plan. And after editing an extremely lengthy funding proposal for child sexual abuse programming this afternoon, Patrick sent me a copy of the trip report he had to write up from St. Lucia so that I “could see the format for the new year.” Gasp! A sign of future travels? I hope so!

Okay, so I might be looking too hard for a sign. But regardless, things are going well enough now that I have accepted my non-field work state.

In the next week, a few noteworthy things are happening: An international surf competition on the east coast, Independence Day on Tuesday of next week, Hagen Daazs opens around the corner from my work, I have my first surfing lesson and I will see the new Harry Potter!

I was planning on talking a bit about Bajan dialect here, but actually another CANADEM intern McKinley, out posted way out in St. Kitts, has a good one on patois. Bajans really love replacing pronouns “her” and “his” with “she” and “him.” i.e. She got in she car.

Here is her post:

Also, I’m considering staying in Barbados until July, just to be here for crop over:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Liming in Bathsheba

Two Saturdays ago, the four girls decided to venture out to see a different part of the island. I realized the other day that although I’ve been here nearing 2 months, I really haven’t seen many of the other parishes. One of the most famous beaches, Bathsheba, is on the Atlantic Ocean side and the "Soup Bowl" is a surfer’s paradise. where international surfing competitions take place each year. And it did not disappoint!
Oh and liming means relaxing, just so you know! Example: “I’m going to go lime on the beach.”

Here are some snaps of serenity:

Calm after the Storm

Since last week, Barbados and other islands that were affected by Tomas, are picking up the pieces, cleaning up debris and many families are looking for normalcy in their lives. Last Thursday, my supervisor went into St. Lucia for a few hours to write a story for a fundraising appeal with the UK UNICEF national committee. I am starting to understand the coordination among organizations necessitated by working in this type of emergency. For example, UNICEF’s mandate is to ensure the security and livelihood of women and children, therefore, UNICEF supplies – hygiene kits, bottled water, recreational and school supplies, and water purification tablets – are supposed to be helping children, more than just the general population. Not such an easy task on the ground, especially when the communities nearest the port get news of 5,000 5L water jugs coming in hours.

Also, when one of the programme staff, Elaine, was in St. Lucia to do training for the Return to Happiness programme, she was saying that one of the elements is to have a positive message song to begin and end the session. So, as she so hilariously demonstrated by singing and doing a little dance in the latest meeting, the children involved chose Shakira’s opening of the FIFA World Cup anthem Waka Waka (This is Africa) – replacing “Africa” so it ends “This is St. Lucia.” Okay, it’s pretty darn cute.

Apparently a lack of drinking water is the major issue right now, so the purification tablets are important if people are drinking from streams so as to prevent a cholera outbreak. And conditions are right, as they are also in Haiti, for child abuse, with shelters packed, adults and children sleeping together and children generally left unsupervised.

Some photos from St. Lucia:

The Child Protection Specialist Heather took some photos in St. Lucia with the Return to Happiness kits that we spent almost a week sorting out and packing. The aim is to help children come to terms with emotions and concerns following a natural disaster and work through them in small groups. Here are some images:

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Breezy Weekend

Now that’s the understatement of the century. Tropical Storm / Hurricane Tomas really shook up Barbados (though not as much as it did St. Lucia and St. Vincent). And being so late in the hurricane season, it caught everyone off guard, and me in particular! Word came late Friday evening of a tropical storm warning, which we took mildly seriously, going out for dinner but calling it an early night. We only heard of the upgrade to a hurricane watch from a colleague who phoned around 11pm. This is the downside to not having a working tv, a radio or reliable internet. After bringing in patio chairs, laundry, the garbage can and shoes, we closed all the windows and went to bed. By midnight, the rain and wind was so loud, I was waking up every 2 hours until our landlord’s phone call at 6:30am.

“We’re all fine; the house is fine,” was all I could string together in my groggy state. No power, but we had water. Melissa, my newest roommate and emergency management intern at unicef, was also up early. The banana tree in our backyard had fallen but luckily it was not large enough to damage anything. The storm was still surging outside. We ate our breakfast almost in silence, discussing tactics for if we felt the winds were getting stronger. We could put a mattress against the glass door. We should take shelter in the corners away from windows. And we should have bought candles.

By midday, the ‘all clear’ was given to emergency crews and police to start clearing roads and getting the people who needed urgent help. Luckily, we remembered that Melissa’s phone has an FM radio, so we took turns following the news and napping or cleaning the house. The news was structured mostly as a call-in show, where people from all over the island called to explain the situation in their area, so that emergency crews listening could make note. St. Lucy, the northernmost point, and St. George in the east, sustained the worst damage. Christ Church, where our house is, was also quite badly hit. Government subsidized housing across the country sounded pretty well destroyed; so much for building codes.

I was particularly transfixed to the radio when callers explain their personal stories:
- An old lady appealing for help after a pear tree fell on her roof
- A lupus sufferer and others with special needs whose neighbours were calling to report roofs blown off and unsure of what to do about medications
- A family whose house was destroyed staying at a primary school and appealing for basic assistance
- Intense flooding in some area; with one report only saying there was major flooding in one house with a baby inside...and so is anyone helping?!?
- “Fisherfolk” in the East and West coasts braving the surf to salvage their boats – their livelihoods
- Someone calling to tell “George” that his house had been destroyed (this one pulled at my heart strings)

The “all clear” was given around 2:30pm, though intense rain continued so we actually never left the house on Saturday. Stores were obviously not open, so with only one flashlight and early nightfall here, we packed it in early for another restless sleep as the tropical storm conditions continued. At one point, around 2am Sunday morning, I was hugging the far corner of my bed, to get as far away from the window as possible – even though I knew the hurricane had passed. Sunday we stocked up on non-perishables and candles amidst a frantic crowd at the grocery store. Power lines were down all over our street, but only our street. So we pretty much have lowest priority on the entire island.

This is like forced camping. Did I mention how much I love gas stoves?

Regardless, all is well here, though without power for an undetermined amount of time. Another experience for the books. Here's to hoping Tomas miraculously steers clear of Haiti.

RIP our banana tree:

Putting together 'Return to Happiness' child trauma counseling kits at work: