i have been thinking about all the things i have been talking about with people and considering how i should be documenting it all...but then i don't. i think i have a problem with follow through. which is why the completion of these two years may set a new pattern into play for me. i finished my bachelors...my masters...but still had that itch...maybe these two years have scratched it enough that i can find myself settling down for once and living the contemporary american life...yeah...i doubt it. it's a thought though....i guess these thoughts are inevitable considering that my service is close to it's end. it's hard to believe that i have been here two years and that i will soon have to make a new choice in my life. some days it feels as though i have been here ten years...as so much has happened in my life and around me. i have grown exponentially in these last two years and learned so much about myself in a foreign environment; i know i have been forever changed. so i thought i would take this time to simply document the things that have affected me and/or been running wild through my mind:

i'll start with the magnificent.

 i was talking to a friend of mine the other day about all we have experienced and learned during these past two years. there is this interesting thing in peace corps where you have a subculture within the culture. which is completely outside of the actual culture we are living in. some of us that joined peace corps are seekers, healers, wanderers, travelers, spiritual gangsters. so this experience takes on an entirely different and new face for us as we step into a world unknown with a deep need to understand, connect, and learn through each movement. every encounter, every sunset, every bus ride is impactful on a cellular level. and they add up. this experience has been one of the most profoundly terrifying, eye opening, heart opening, heart breaking, life shaking, twisty-turny rides of my life. but it has shifted me and my energy to this new space of awareness and self-sufficiency i hadn't quite known before. in that space this is my realization...i have manifested all the things i spoke about previously into existence during my time here in saint lucia. let me explain...i am a firm believer that what we speak we create...especially if there is a strong intention behind it. when i was 16 i spoke a deep desire to join peace corps. when i was 20-something i spoke a deep desire to serve. when i was in my bachelors and masters programs i spoke a deep desire to work with disadvantaged youth...and here i am. doing just that. in the exact capacity i want. some years ago i spoke a deep desire to love unconditionally. to truly understand what it means to have an open heart and open soul in all circumstances...as tough as this road has been, i have learned how to love openly and unconditionally even when the world is pressing against me. i have worked my entire life to truly understand myself and gain a deep connectedness to god and spirit...i have found that here. before i left the states to join the peace corps i spoke a desire to reconnect all the pieces of myself...the old, little sarah that was so full of life and joy...with the new, older, maturer sarah that was more grounded and focused...it has happened here. while here in saint lucia i have been forced to see myself from every angle. i have run up against myself in a hundred different ways a hundred different times...and each impact has caused a tiny crack, a tiny falling away until eventually...like the shedding of skin...i have emerged stronger, softer, more aware, and more connected than i have ever been in my life. my peace corps experience has truly been a metamorphosis...and as i face return to the states and the world that i no longer truly know...i wonder how i will fit into the pieces that were left for me.

the less magnificent pieces are the every day...the social issues i run into...the cultural differences that may never make sense. the disparity between the facade of wealth and the struggles of day to day living. the work i am doing is so rewarding and yet so challenging. every day i work to connect to and understand what these young people are going through to help them better navigate through the troubled waters...and it never fails that i hear of sexual abuse, molestation, violence, anger, fear...and these pieces are so pervasive in the world i am living in it becomes difficult to tease apart and even more difficult to find ways to help without becoming discouraged and uncertain. every day these youth come with the hope of changing, shifting, growing...and it seems every direction and every side is set up against the possibility of that happening. these kids are growing up in a world that is disenfranchised...destructive...dismal. they live in a world where you are taught not to trust anyone...to only give respect if you get it. they live in a world where the promise of success is met with destruction. where the negative is always the focus before the positive. they live in a world where the bad you do is highlighted and the good is forgotten. they are amongst babies having babies and many times have not been given the basic skills of thinking and understanding that i take for granted. so every day when a little headway is made...it unravels as they go back to the world that continues to tear them down.

i see it everywhere i go...it's not just for the "at-risk." i see families and couples and friends struggle to communicate. i see tempers and anger flare up within seconds of a conflict. and i try. i try every day to find ways for these kids to open and understand...but the world against them is hard. and then i think to myself...there is some beauty in this. these pieces...this ugliness and harshness...it has softened me. while i have been here it has forced me to become deeply aware of myself and my connection to things...deeply aware of my emotional reaction to situations and people. it has taught me to let go over and over again. and this is what i see so fluently throughout this culture. an ability to let go. there is not a lot of holding on to things...at least on the surface. when you get deep into the reality..the pain and disappointment of the harshness takes its toll...but there is this ability to live present in each moment with a deep awareness that we are not promised tomorrow. and that has taught me so much. i wish...now that i am coming toward the end of my service...that i was better able to relay my own learning and growing to the kids i work with as they have done for me. i wish i had been able to show them the pieces of my growth and opening in an effort to soften them in their ability to step into their own battles every day. i have learned so much in my time here...i feel almost guilty or selfish that i have not done the same for them.

the truth is i may never know. i may never know the impact i have had on this tiny little dot in the sea...but i know my life is forever changed for having been here...and i will never be able to go back. for that i am forever grateful. and forever...unconditionally in love.


out of the mouths of babes...

today i went on a brilliant date with a boy i am head over heels in love with...
we do this sometimes...though not as often as i'd like...and our usual dates consist of us going to Windjammer..which is an incredibly overpriced resort up the beach from my home...and using their facilities...swimming in their pool, playing with their rafts, jumping on their water trampoline, sliding down their sea slide... Sometimes...we will buy some fries for $15. but most times we just play. i remember the first time we went out on one of these dates being really unsure about whether or not we should be sliding into the pool of those who never bat an eye at $15. fries..but my 7 year old friend (at the time...he has since turned 8) assured me that we would be okay. so we walked in as if we owned the place...jumped in the pool...played on the inflatable shamu....and remained safe, invisible to the eyes of those around.

i remember a comment his mother made when i brought him home and told her how uncertain i was if we would get away with our sneakiness...of course...you are white...no one will say a word. it didn't strike me as too odd as i had heard that line of reasoning more than once...and seen it's truth on many occasions...i am in fact treated differently because of the color of my skin. not always in the way of opening up doors to fancy hotels...sometimes in an attempted excessive overcharge at the market...or in a snide remark in passing...but most times in every day interactions with young people about how beautiful my hair is and how much they hate theirs...about how soft my skin is and how they wish they could have it too...it's gotten me thinking on more than one occasion at how often skin color becomes the dominating feature in social settings...but today...it hit me on a stronger, deeper level.

while we were walking to the resort ahjani told me that the one thing he likes about white boys is they get to have a lot of parties and black boys don't. he then told me he liked how they got things...how they always had ipads and kindles and video games and black boys didn't really get to have those things. now...ahjani has a lot for most 8 year olds. he is a special little boy who everyone falls in love with and out of that love constantly gives him gifts. he has bikes, skateboards, basketballs, video games, animals...the list goes on...but his perception here is that the white boys have more. and he's probably right. but the insinuation stuck in my mind. the distinction has been made between me and them. the line is drawn.

later in the day we were in the pool and some guests had let us borrow one of their toys. i told him if we were going to continue using it he needed to go make sure it was okay with them. his comment was that they were up the stairs and "black people like me can't go up there...it's only for white people." i was shocked. ahjani is no stranger to white people. he has had plenty of white friends but clearly has been indoctrinated into the concept of us and them. i explained to him that it was guests who could go up there and non-guests who needed to stay down in the area we were in but i don't think that point rang as true.

it was striking. our conversation, his perception, reality. it was striking. as we were walking home we came across this:

a lizard shedding it's skin...i didn't even know lizards did this but i thought to myself...wow...imagine if we could all do this and see what is underneath before we ever see what's on the outside.