Hannah Goes Fishing

A Fishing (and more) Blog

This Peace Corps Life – Eastern Caribbean

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Thousands of Peace Corps volunteers serve across the globe continent in countries as different from one another as Alaska is from Florida. As part of my blogging goals for 2015, I hope to bring you volunteer interviews from Peace Corps countries from all around the world!  This month, I am excited to introduce to you a volunteer from Eastern Caribbean.

Kimmy Shannon – Age 29kim2

Where are you from?
Hi! I’m Kimmy. I had been living in Hawaii before I joined the Peace Corps, but I’m from the Seattle area in Washington state.
What country and program do you serve in? 
I’m serving in St. Lucia (it’s in the Eastern Caribbean which I didn’t know either until I joined). The only Peace Corps program in St. Lucia is the Primary Literacy Project. I swore in less than a month ago but had been in training for three months prior.

In my program I’m assigned two co-teachers. One is a first grade teacher and the other is a third grade teacher. We’re supposed to be teaching English literacy together. My principal also wants me to convert the resource room into a lending library.

Monday through Thursday I alternate days when I’m in the first grade classroom and when I’m in the third grade classroom. The first grade teacher lets me teach mini writing lessons while I mostly sit at a desk and observe aka Facebook in the third grade room. I work on converting the resource room into a library on Fridays.

In Eastern Caribbean I think our Peace Corps medical staff are outstanding, and my country staff would support me if I needed them for something.

What is your housing like?
I like to refer to my site as the Posh Corps or the Beach Corps. I live in a single bedroom apartment with wifi and running water. I have a microwave, blender, gas stove, mini fridge, and a fan. My landlord lives above me and often gifts me with fresh fruits and veggies from her garden.

What are some of the biggest challenges of your lifestyle?
The biggest challenge has been my loss of self. My lifestyle has completely changed. I’ve been having an existential crisis for the past few months. I used to be extremely active. I was a professional dancer and competitive surfer who hiked mountains on the weekends. Now, my lifestyle is largely sedentary. There are no waves, no yoga classes, no dance anything and no trails that I could safely hike on my own. I try to stay fit by doing workouts in my living room each day.

My diet has also changed but for the better. There is no fast food in my village so I am forced to cook for myself which I don’t mind. Sweets are very expensive so I eat a lot less chocolate and ice cream and things of that nature.

How often do you see and interact with other volunteers? 
I have nothing but love for my fellow volunteers. We genuinely enjoy each others company. I would have probably been on a plane home weeks ago if it weren’t for them. They are incredible supportive. We socialize every weekend.  Our central meeting house or office? The beach.
Kim and her intake at their swearing-in ceremony.

Kim and her intake at their swearing-in ceremony.

What are the locals like as a people? 
The process of getting to know my host-country neighbors will probably be a slow process. Women tend to stay in the house and I tend to be wary of the men here. I know they are an extremely religious people. There is no separation of church and state. Teachers pray with the students about four times daily in school.  Everyone speaks English but it is their second language. Their first language is Creole. I would love to learn it and Peace Corps would even pay for a tutor but their aren’t any tutors in my area so…
What are some of the most rewarding parts of your service?
I enjoy my time at the school.

And your greatest challenges?
I miss my independence. Volunteers are forbidden to drive so that makes getting away from the house a challenge since the buses stop running at seven. I don’t do anyone fun on weekdays since my friends and the beach are all at least two bus rides away. Saturday is my only day to get out and explore because buses are infrequent or don’t run at all on Sunday.

Has Peace Corps service met/surpassed/trampled on your expectations of what service would be like?
I had two expectations when I joined the Peace Corps: I expected to be fulfilled by my work and become a better teacher. School has only been in session for three weeks but I am fulfilled thus far. It is highly doubtful that I will become a better teacher. I’m being politically correct when I say that school is different here. I will have to unlearn a lot of bad habits when I return to teaching in the states and will be behind the curve in technology integration.

It’s difficult for me as a female in St. Lucia. I can’t walk down the street without being harassed, cat called or solicited. I’ve even been followed home. There are many places it is unsafe for me to go without the company of a man.  My male counterparts aren’t harassed for sex but for money. There seems to be a perception that white men have cash to spare.

Why did you join Peace Corps?
Long story short, I joined the Peace Corps to serve the greater good. That reason is still applicable.
Kim's classroom.

Kim’s classroom.

Has Peace Corps changed you?
Peace Corps has absolutely changed me for the better. In the short time that I’ve been in St. Lucia I have become more patient, resilient, empathetic, appreciative, #AllTheAdjectives

Do you feel like Peace Corps is still a worthwhile program for the U.S. government?
I think so.

If you had to give a piece of advice to someone thinking about applying to Peace Corps or getting ready for staging, what would you say?
I don’t regret joining the Peace Corps because I would always wonder if I hadn’t. That being said, would I do it again? No.

Any plans for post-Peace Corps?
Get married (If you’re single and grown then holler @k1m_b3rlee), and pay off my student loans.
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