this is my life…

On more than several occasions in this last month, sometimes multiple times a day, I have had to remind myself that this is my life.  Most of the time, these moments come when I’m on a bus as it zooms past one breathtaking panoramic ocean view after another.  Other times it’s when I’m in my bedroom and have found yet another dead dried up baby frog on the floor, or finding goat hair in the stew I’ve just been served for dinner.  My days are filled with moments of novelty and surprise at the things that are second nature to the everyday Vincentian.

Dinner

The school where I am working is another vestibule into a world full of cultural nuances to which I have not yet grown accustomed.  In cement-floored classrooms on broken wooden benches, children sit through lessons led by a teacher who, in her approach, more resembles a drill sergeant barking out orders than a nurturing role model with a hope to inspire children’s learning.  Alternatively, students wreak havoc without an adult present, as the teachers themselves are often tardy and absent.  When teachers do show up, they pace up and down the aisles with belt in hand ready to put any misbehaving child in his place.  In this and most schools in St. Vincent, corporal punishment is commonly practiced while, in the distance, school administrators and public leaders ironically criticize the increasing rates of youth violence.

Kindergarteners

The country’s broken system of education is reflected by a society in which illiteracy is not uncommon; nor is the decision to retreat to the hills to grow marijuana, arguably SVG’s most profitable crop and economic lifeboat.

My job here then, is not to fix this country’s problems, but to show my new neighbors another way of living.  In each of the positions I’ve held after graduation, promoting literacy has been central to my work and it is going to be again here in St. Vincent.  This time I will be teaching remedial reading to students who are falling behind, continuing the school’s library project, and starting a creative writing/expression class.  My hope is that I will be able to inspire these children to see beyond the temptation of the hills, and to embrace a broader view of the world… one that they can be a part of.

Future library

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristen Cook
    Sep 24, 2010 @ 15:35:37

    Camille! I just found this through your facebook newsfeed. I’m so jealous of this opportunity that you have… I just wanted to mention that I participated in Alternative Spring Break last year through Orphanage Outreach in Jaibon, Dominican Republic, when I taught English in the classrooms at the orphanage for a week. There are so many parallels to the area you’ve described here in your blog, including the reliance on corporal punishment and the teachers’ varying presence in the classrooms, and it really brought me back, I guess.

    Reply

  2. heatherdollins
    Oct 21, 2010 @ 21:03:56

    you write well.
    & i dig your pictures.

    Reply

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