Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday update - last post from Guadeloupe!

Hello parents!

We've had a whirlwind last few days. Tuesday afternoon, they had a drumming lesson with Jimmy as we did last year. He's a great teacher and they always have fun with the drums. I'll put some pictures on facebook as those are on my phone and I don't have time to transfer them right now. One of the teachers is standing here waiting while I use the school's wifi to write this. We have an exhibition to go to this morning in the town square.

Wednesday we had a great day at Le Tappeur on the island of Basse Terre, where we enjoyed the ziplines through the forest. Everyone loved it. Most of us did two tracks, but Sam, Ben, and Alex also did the more challenging line which requires more upper body strength. Here are some pics...

Yesterday, we did a walking tour of Point-a-Pitre and learned a lot about the history of Guadeloupe. It was fun too. After that, the kids from the school showed us their mall, which is pretty fantastic!

Today after the exhibition, we have a picnic at the beach. Tomorrow is the day we hike up the volcano, and then Sunday we have a boat trip with some of the kids to the smaller islands of Guadeloupe. Then HOMEWARD BOUND! It's been fun! Look for more pictures on facebook. See you sooon!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Safe and having fun in Ste-Anne!

Hello parents,

Ross let me know that you are all worried about the lack of blog posts. I have tried to get on the Internet at several different locations, with no luck. Even the cafe where I usually have camped out to update the blog in previous years has problems with their Internet now. They said it is because of a big storm they had recently. The Internet in Guadeloupe comes in via a cable under the Ocean so it is iffy, at best. Today, I am blogging from the school's computer lab, but someone had to come in and open it for me, since classes are essentially over and there are just the exams and end of year events going on now at the school. So, here's our update...

We arrived Friday evening a little late because of a delay in Puerto Rico waiting for our plane to come from Tortola. The families were all waiting for us at the school and everyone went right home to sleep...until noon on Saturday. Saturday afternoon we all met up at the beach and the Yssap and IHS students swam all afternoon. They had a lot of fun and it was a beautiful day. It has otherwise been hotter than ever and we've had at least a short rainshower every day. Tropical rain is much more intense than our dripping rain in Eugene. Not so bad when you're in the water already, but kind of a bummer when your dry towel and clothes get drenched!

Alex had a close encounter with a sea urchin that first day, but there's a wonderful pharmacy right next to the beach - called Pharmacie de la Plage - so we took him right in and got it taken care of. All better now! Pharmacies here are kind of like Urgent Care clinics in Eugene - you go in and the pharmacien fixes you right up and hardly charges anything for the care! I got a spider bite right before I left Eugene which has now taken over my ankle entirely and I went to the pharmacie yesterday. She spent half an hour cleaning and dressing the wound and charged me only 3 euros for the hydrogen peroxide!

So, Alex is all better and everyone else is healthy. Despite the intense heat, they are staying hydrated and using sunscreen somewhat religiously. As a group, I would say they are fairly obsessed with sunscreen and are constantly applying and re-applying it.

On Sunday we had a wonderful day visiting the Slave Steps, which is a memorial to the slaves brought over to Guadeloupe from Africa. There are plaques with the names of the various tribes that were represented in the slave population in Guadeloupe, and I had an emotional moment when I saw the name of my son's tribe - the Fulani (Peul, in French). I had no idea there were Fulani slaves taken to the Americas, and I was surprised to see this.


The Slave Steps are just a short walk from the ocean and have historical significance for the way they were used to break the slaves' resistance to christianity and to punish runaway slaves - called Maroons here. At the foot of the steps there is a statue of an African djembe drum to commemorate the abolition of slavery. The djembe represents freedom because the slaves were not allowed to have drums, or even a large piece of wood that might be used to make a drum! This is because the drums were a means of communication in Africa and the plantation owners feared a slave revolt would be organized by communicating with the drums.

We also went to a sugar cane plantation that is now set up as a museum. It was very well done and we enjoyed the outing, though most of our kids were clearly uninterested in the history of it all. There was a train from the fields to the factory and we took a little ride on it.

Yesterday, we did the beach cleanup with a class of younger students from the college. It has become quite an event here in Ste-Anne. The first year, I organized it as an extra community service activity for just our students, the second year, it was a joint project with one of Fabienne's classes, and the newspaper reporter that was someone's friend, came and wrote a story about it. Then this year, the city, the forest service, the sanitation service, and an environmental protection association were all there to support us, take pictures, talk on the news interview, and generally get in the way of cleaning up the beach! Last year we picked up 45 bags of garbage - this year, less than 20. There was plenty of trash to pick up, but far too many project managers slowing the effort! It was also the hottest day so far and some of the kids had not brought enough water, so they were dragging fairly early in the day. We got back from the beach cleanup around 3 pm, and spent the afternoon relaxing and rehydrating at the beach, then went to the Cafe Americano for crepes to celebrate Sarah's birthday.

The accomodations this year are the best we've had yet - most of the students have air conditioning where they are staying, and some have a swimming pool, Wii, and other comforts of home. I think the hardest adjustment so far has to be food. We are used to "grazing" throughout the day, while people here really just eat meals and no snacks. So, we also went to the supermarket yesterday so they could buy snacks if they wanted something to eat between meals.

Today we are at the school all day working on posters about recycling, protecting the environment, etc. Tomorrow we will be gone all day with one of the classes to the rainforest zipline on the other island - Basse Terre. And on Thursday, we have another excursion planned to go to a couple of other sites on Grande Terre, our island. I will try to update the blog again on Friday, but will not have Internet access for the next two days, and don't have it at night except through my phone. Please text me if you have any concerns - 541-520-2488. I've been sending Mary text updates each night, as that is more reliable than Internet.