Monday, June 22, 2015

Simularities and Differences: Grenada and Senegal

In some ways I dislike the idea of the topic of this post, but in other ways I have realized this is now I figure out my 'new normal' now. By taking what I know (or lived by for the last few years) and compare and contrast it to what I am seeing.

Strangely comparing was a 'regular' thing in Senegal for Senegalese to do to just about anything. At first I found it very annoying as things are 'better' or 'worse' they are different. Maybe you prefer one more than another, but being 'better' is only 'better' to you. I do not think I get my habit of comparing and contrasting from living in Senegal, but from stereotypes in general.

Stereotypes are a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing allows us to make efficient shortcuts and sense-making tools to understand the people and places around us more easily.

Without a due a few observations:

Praying with hands open and facing up: Interestingly enough this is done in a few of the churches I've attended and was the common way to pray in Senegal.

Non-verbal communication: Stoups (or what sounds like loudly sucking of your front teeth) is a sign of mostly annoyance but could be also shock, disbelief and amazement. Making a group wait to long in a queue would be taken very personally annoying and cause someone to do 'stoup' very loudly in a public setting in Grenada. Strangely more okay to be done in pubic (in general setting) than in a private (directed toward one person). I've heard grandparents becoming very upset by grandchildren doing it in their presence.

Clicking with the back of your throat (Idk if this has a name) is also done in both locations for a sign of simple agreement or understanding while not interrupting. (This is also apparently more on the East Coast than other parts of the island)

Transportation: Small passenger vans with sliding side doors wait till full and bring you along a route based on major towns. Public transportation has a cut off time at night to certain locations and doesn't run on Sunday. This was also is very similar to Senegal. Buses in Senegal and historically Grenada were even painted simularly.

Right Grenada circa 2009 and left Senegal present day
Head coverings: Many people cover their heads with scarves, hats, stocking caps in Grenada, while in Senegal head coverings for women were standard as is common in Muslim religion,  unless it was for a big event where extensions of hair would be added for a more elaborate braided hairstyle.

Dressing for everyone else: In Senegal it was told to me at some point that your dress reflects your relationship with everyone else. It's a sign of respect to your community, friends and family. In Grenada uniforms and dress are also very important and also show status and class. But I believe this idea of dressing for 'them' is also true here. It's not to be 'seen' but to dress appropriate for the people attending the event.

I find the most interesting difference in dress being between the 2 churches I've attended. Catholic and Pentecostal.  Catholics were very modest and having almost no print even evident in most of the outfits, while the Pentecostal was much more colorful and patterned. Leg and arms could be shown at either, but cleavage and exposed shoulders were almost none. Scarves and light jackets covered any straps and bodices that may have been too revealing.

Very very welcoming: My initial host families (CBT and at site) in Senegal did not fit this idea, but the other families that adopted me in Senegal very much did. I have never been so well cared for by people that hardly know me. Strangers take you in to their house and you are immediately part of their families. It's pretty cool. Senegal and Grenada both have this down. People here are really quite fun and welcoming and are very tolerant of 'new' people. Even my land-lady/host mom's Catholic church 'claims' me as I've attended a few times and very much enjoy chatting with the congregation.
Catholic Church in Grenada

Overall, I've been very happy and living here has been 'easy' on many accounts and this I'm very grateful and blessed.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Grenada: Two Months

I wished I would have written sooner, but I've been busy in good ways and this has given me time to collect my thoughts about this place, people, idea, job and how to talk about being here.
Sugar cane fields in the north west of the island

First of all, it's beautiful, people are awesome, and the food (lush in fruits and vegetables) is so good and great season variety I feel spoiled. Making a transition from West Africa to here has been easy as I live in the center, also refereed to as the "country" (as apposed to "town"), around people who may work locally in fields, gardens, or groves of nutmeg and cocoa. There is also a few dialects to get used to. Proper English (as I speak it), 'town' English (as someone who went to school but may not speak it as proper as a American or European), 'country' (which has more slang and creole dialect in it) and 'bush' (I can understand what they say, but usually takes it a while to register) An example of 'bush' or 'dialect' would be: Wa go? or What's going? and the answer would be Ay (ah) dey or I'm there.
View from across from my house waiting for the bus into 'town'

Very simplified but reminds me of the greetings in Senegal. Nanga def? or What do you do? and replied with Mangi fi or I'm here.

The sociocultural atmosphere here is very interesting. The island having so many 'invaders'/'conquers' and others on the island makes it very tolerant of 'other' cultures and religions. There are 5 churches in my town of 2000 people, all of them full on Sundays from the area. But I have seen 4+ more religions represented on the island. 
Money! Or the Easter Caribbean dollar 1 EC ~ $.37 or 2.7EC ~ $1

Politics are a whole other ball of wax that I am very slowly learning here. Many people will simply say it's a yellow/green issue, referring to the current major 2 parties, liberal National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the conservative New National Party (NNP). This is only complicated by old held beliefs from the Revolution/Coup/Invasion/Hurricanes. Each having influence on the current state but also hard lines are formed by each that are not obvious but are many sides of each depending upon who you talk to.

Grand Anse, one of the best beaches in the world

But alas I do live on a island. Not any island 'the spice island'. It is quite lovely here not only with many great beaches, but also chocolate, alcohol-namely rum, many fresh fruits and vegetables (that from what I see are organic), and lovely fish and sea food. I can easily see how many of the challenges of the island are looked past or not easily seen by visitors.

Grand Anse again

 My job as a beekeeper trainer and specialist allows me to travel around the island as needed to work with beekeepers, and I have a small office in Grenville, on the east side of the island. 15 minutes by bus from my house.
 I happen to live in the center of the island, which is wonderfully cold due to being at 300 feet from sea level and surrounded by hills and lush forests. The over casts days bring light rain showers in the mornings and afternoons to cool off the 80+ degrees. On the coasts the humidity and direct sun make it feel much warmer, easily sweating through clothing. While here in the center I hardly break a sweat, and if so, I have a river a short walk behind my house that people sit in to cool off.

My 'host' family, my landlady and her 2 kids who live upstairs
Sadly with living in a more developed country with cable tv, internet and other modern conveniences (I have a washing machine, fridge, stove, fan) does not allow people to interact throughout the day as much. So to help with this and living in my community  but working someplace else, I attend church. Out of the 5 churches, I have attended 2, but have plans to attend a 3rd hopefully soon. This lets the community get to know me, see me, interact with me.  The largest church is also attended by my landlady who is also very active in the church. In the past 2 months there have been many social events, fund-raisers and funerals to attend. Also many of this congregation I have seen on a regular basis outside of church. They know where I work, have offered me rides into town, and generally check up on me.

Catholic Church, renovated after Ivan in

Interior view

Live band that plays along with the choir

Overall, I'm very happy and busy which makes it nice to be here. But I always feel like I want more time to do things. Relax, explore, read, work. There are 13 holidays, making 1 sometimes 2 a month, along with other social events that cut out part of the week. There is never a lack of something 'to do' here.

Current volunteers on the island are teachers working with 1-3rd graders and have a very hard job. They spend much of their time in their communities and at the schools they work, typically walking distance from their houses. Even with a small island (12 miles by 22 miles) it is still sometimes difficult to get together. I have met all of the volunteers but planning events are sometimes seemingly impossible due to logistics (buses only run until 8-9pm to certain parts of the island and not on Sundays).

As I hope to continue to write about the island and my work, I am also on instagram @mayhemmadness5 to follow pictures more often.