Settling in...

After a month or so, Deb and I began to get a little more settled. We would still experience some more extreme culture shock (you can see it beginning) but we know what our days will be like, even though we still struggle to accept all we see.

28/1/83

Not feeling 100% just now but wanted to finish out the week on a positive, constructive note. Work has been a “no surprize” affair except, I finally got off my duff and visited with Jeff Venner over at the Dept of Labor. He is a really on the ball guy and sounds as though he has got good ideas. I think he will use me and I am trying to ‘temper’ my excitement. I remember feeling optimistic about Mr. Gaynes too. I still have a lot I could do in the Ministry of Finance but I have been stymied for now. I did see Mr. Gaynes on Mon. He told me to back, which I did and he put me off and said he would see me. He never came. I have spent nearly all week sitting here (save Tuesday) hoping for him to come by.. No luck. Mr Venner seems ambitious enough to keep me busy. He has two people in Manpower & Training that need training themselves. He said something about starting an employment bureau and also send his new staff out for training in Jamaica or Guyana. In all, I basically begged him to have me do something. Monday we’ll meet for a longer period of time so we can do a more thorough needs assessment. In all cases, there is a glimmer of hope that my idleness will end. I’m sure looking forward to a change of pace.

Got a lot of letters this week (earlier) and have spent the balance trying to answer them all. It certainly is good to get mail from home. I can just picture the house in SLC and the front room/kitchen people sprawled comfortably around the house, relaxing after a day of work. Though sometimes painful, those memories are a catylyst for me to ‘hang in there’. I look forward to the reunion at Christmas, but also to how this year is going to unfold. My purpose here is still a blank slate. For the nearly two months we have been in SVG I have done little but get a garden going. I haven’t changed anyone or anything. I don’t think I’ve made a difference but then again, How will I know? The people of the street aren’t as intimidating but they still seem to react the same. I feel different but how has that influenced the state of affairs in SVG? I don’t know. Sometimes, I don’t care. For two reasons: God put me in SVG for a purpose. One that perhaps I’ll never know. 2 I’m learning so much that at least I will have benefited from being here (though I feel a bit guilty and selfish) But it also humbles me. Even more than my two months of idleness. Because I may not, even though I work my buns off, make any perceptible difference in life in SVG.

Jan 31 1983

Monday mornings. I hate em. I am unusually lethargic and unmotivated. I should go see Mr. Gaines. I need to go to the wharf & to the tourism dept. Most I just want to sit here. Rivited in immobility. Doing anything at work has become quite a chore. I’m excited by the possibility that something might come of my visit this afternoon at the Dept of Labor. Gads. I hope something happens. I doubt I can put up with this under (or non-) utilization much longer. No doubt I am learning patience. At this rate, I’m learning to be THE most patient man in the world.

Talked to mom yesterday. It was so wonderful to hear all their voices. We talked for about 25 min (probably cost a BUNDLE) but it was certainly worth it. We had to straighten up a lot of ‘fuzzy’ rumors and mis-information. But it was certainly worth it. we had to straighten up a lot of fuzzy rumors and misinformation. I must learn to be clearer in my written correspondence. sometimes I think I shouldn't write at all because it seems to do less for understanding. Anyway the phone call cleared up a lot of the rough edges at least I know what was going on. 

After the phone call the afternoon settled into a kind of melancholy. Both Deb and I felt “bleah”. So we decided to go out to dinner and a show with Joan, Greg and “Anchor”. It did a great deal for our morale. But for the last few days I've been feeling wrung out achy tired and bleah. No fever no flu. Just kind of punk. Don't know if it's physical or psychological. Diet? Food poisoning? Too liberal use of insecticide around the house? Whatever it is, I wish it would go away. I have a hard enough time being with it when I'm healthy.

Feb 4

End of week. Peculiar perspective having both first and last Impressions on this first week and anniversary of our second month on St. Vincent. Amazing! I would have thought that this month would have crawled from the amount of sitting I have done in this office. At least our garden is in! (progress must be noted however small ). The cabbages and lettuce have already begun climbing out of the ground. Hope the bugs don't destroy them. Anyway (as I wander everywhere ) the week is finished. Two months is finished ( only 22 left ), and soon I'll be done for the day. 

Deb cried quite a bit last night. She's lost two patients this week. Unnecessary deaths in that the skills, tech, meds or machines are available but not here. She's watching a 16-year-old quad slowly degrade into nothingness due to poor nursing care and something as simple as a lack of pillows to keep him in proper position so that bed sores don't develop. Any death is an unpleasant experience ( to say the least ) but unnecessary death is a complete tragedy. A waste of human life. Her sorrow poured out last night at this wastage.83 - Deb on the sea porch .JPG I got angry at a system that lets people die, also for what it is doing to a compassionate caring individual like Debbie. Sometimes (most times )I want to go home just to protect her. But I realize that the good she is doing for her patients and the people she works with is far more important than my agonizing over her sorrow. Should she choose to leave here ( which would be highly unlikely ) I would discuss it with her then go ( or stay ) whatever the results of discussion pointed to. But I want to be rid of this sorry place for her sake. I don't see the heartbreak, I only hear about it or feel it. To me, boredom is my greatest enemy while Debbie is involved in fighting death itself. She's been too tired lately and I'm worried about her. She's fragile and yet so tough. I just feel inadequate to help her cope.I just listen and tell her whether I understand or not. but I can't do more. I can't shake up the hospital system, manage it competently and change the system in which it works. I'm powerless to do anything and that impotence gnaws at me.

But the problem is greater than just an inept run hospital. it goes far beyond a cumbersome, disorganized government. The problem lies with the people. as it always does. Because hospitals and governments are merely responses to people's needs. They aren't the needs themselves. The people need to take responsibility for themselves. They can no longer afford to drift aimlessly about. Waiting for Godot. The fathers of the children need to acknowledge their responsibility. The women need to stand up for their rights and follow up on the power and responsibility they already have. I agree that the people of St Vincent ( and the EC generally ) need to bail out on the slave excuse and realize they are an important people with important ideas to share with the rest of the world. Until that time, people like Debbie will be torn by the sorrow and futility of life here. 

Feb 8 1983

Busy day yesterday. Busy weekend I wish the weeks would pass as quickly as the weekends. It seems I never have enough time to get it all done. I tend to drag a bit anyway. But weekends are so much fun. I'm wishing they were 3 days long.

I talked with Van Keen yesterday morning and that's why the day went quickly by. He seemed more interested in ‘ shooting the breeze’ than in finding out how my position was going here. He wasn't really surprised or alarmed that I wasn't intensely ( or even mildly ). He wasn't really terribly helpful in trying to relieve the bottlenecks I have been experiencing. Mostly, he wanted to make sure that I was getting involved in a secondary project so that I could constructively direct my frustrations. Actually, that's about all I expected him to do. The ambiguity of PC has not been relieved much. I think I'm pretty much responsible for my own business so I don't really expect PC to be helping me through. But I was rather surprised at his lack of concern. But that's the West Indian way. 

I spent the PM side of the day writing letters. I've been writing quite a bit lately and have felt a bit guilty for pushing Debbie into getting letters off to her friends and relatives. Usually, I'll write about half and let her finish. Still, whether she wants to write or not should be her business. She's been so busy at work that she has no time to write while there and she been doing more afternoon ‘home visits‘ so often she's well into the evening, after dinner, before she's composed enough to sit and write. I have more to write ( letters ). There is always someone to write.

This writing fetish is a part of a multi-dimensional lifestyle that seems to be evolving out of this EC/PC experience. First and foremost, is this nagging question of why the Lord put me here. With all my free time, I wonder just what the heck I'm supposed to be doing in St vincent. My job hasn't exactly been a "dynamite” experience. I'm restless inside me to begin some concrete community work but nothing has materialized yet. Our lifestyle at the cottage has been the most pleasing, has the most permanence and gives me the most security. Outside of that, things still remain a bit ‘fuzzy’. My job is ‘fuzzy’. My community involvement is ‘fuzzy’. I'm praying that God will bring them into sharp focus. But through it all, has been this ribbon of literature. both reading and writing. I've been reading Michner novels ( on my fourth one ) which has been a delight and escape for me. and I've been writing. Writing letters, writing in this journal. For I love to create visual images on paper. The emotions flow on paper. Sometimes I tentatively hope that the Lord has given me this gift as both a personal joy and vocation. Though I cannot see myself in an office setting ( for long ) I can see myself as a writer. Watching seasons pass in front of my desk as I spill out me on paper. I have no desire to talk about myself as much as I can relate the world through myself. I can't write fiction but I can write a prosy ‘the way I see it’ kind of story. 

When I was a child, I had an overwhelming, driving desire to be able to write songs. Not so much music, as a song. I found my poetry found greater life at the piano and when I hurt, really hurt God blessed me with an ability to pour out my hurt through music. The keenness of that ability waned as my hurt subsided. I don't think I could write as meaningful music now. but now the challenge is survival. Survival in a foreign culture. Survival without the immediate constant support of my family. Survival through my love for Debbie. All this creates a low but constant level of anxiety and perhaps that is why I have become more prolific. but I hope not. I hope it's the beginning of a long relationship with the pen. I have always wanted to write professionally ( this is my deepest secret for a writer really does no ‘work’ ). I don't know if this journal shall ever be read on printed “ for profit “ basis. But what I do know that God provides gifts on a long and short-term basis as His need dictates. This Peace Corps experience is filled with hidden possibilities and only time will tell what they are.

Feb 11 1983

Friday! Afternoon yet. I'm glad to be done with this week. A new low in productivity. It's such an anxiety producing no-win situation here. If I remain here in my office & just read and keep myself otherwise occupied, I become anxious out of my guilt and not “doing my job”, whatever that is. It's also boring! But to change the situation, that is, do something, I need to risk. To risk to cause anxiety, so to change from inactivity to activity also causes anxiety. I obviously over-estimated my workload even though I didn't think I'd be doing much to start with. I'm not doing much, I'm doing nothing. I operate in a completely open system here. I can work or not work at my convenience. No one has told me what to do (darn it) so I create my own situation. I'm needed but “temporarily” superfluous. Gads, I just wish that I had more to do. My research for the Manpower report is crawling along. But I will get to attend 4, ½ day training seminars which will at least change the pace a bit. And I will get to meet some higher-ups which may facilitate other projects over the long run.

 I'm looking forward to this weekend. Deb and I hope to go with the Bienamens to Villa tomorrow a.m. and do some snorkeling. We also hope to attend a cricket match in the afternoon. Sunday, we plan to climb Sufriere with some other PCVs. We need the exercise and need to get out. I'm constantly hatching plans to go somewhere for Easter weekend. I know that some charters are available to B-Dos, Grenada and Trinidad. Our 6-month reunion is supposed to be in St Lucia so it's a low priority to go there even though it may have a charter to it. I'd like to go north to Antigua (a Lutheran Church is rumored to be there) or Saint Kitts/Nevis.We’ll have to see. At least this weekend and next week will be busy, somewhat.

Noticed in my last few letters stateside that I talked a lot about my return travel arrangements. The need & desire to go home hasn't been reduced in intensity, just in frequency and duration. I ran into a Mormon missionary from Kuna (Elder Manning) Idaho. I was actually happy to see him! He had that distinctive Western US accent and I could have talked with him for hours. No doubt we'll have him and his “brother” over for dinner in the next 2 months. Just to cure a little homesickness.

I've been preoccupied with my 10th High School reunion for some bizarre reason. It's next year and most assuredly, I'll miss it unless Deb and I manage to save $15,000EC between now and then. we're already going to Salt Lake City for Christmas ($5,000EC). Europe after COS ($6,000EC). A flight to Chicago would cost at least $4,000EC. But oh how I'd love to see where the rest of my class of 1974 have ended up. Maybe, just maybe, we'll find the money. There's always that possibility.

 

14/2/83

Valentine's Day and a Monday. I hate Mondays for the usual reasons. Even more so for my tremendous ‘underwork’ load. I have here. I'm becoming bitter and angry and frustrated at this position I'm in. The days don't drag but I hardly feel satisfied at the end. I could go on in this limbo but it's undermining my enthusiasm. To walk away from this place each day knowing that the work done is hardly perceptible is a bit depressing on a regular basis. I will begin writing the manpower report by months end but after 2 months of preparation I hardly feel industrious. But it will provide a forecast and plan for the future. I can't help but wonder what the Lord has in store for me.

Sufriere was an awesome experience. It's really quite humbling to be at the mouth of such a vast source of energy. The cone itself is desolate and the edge drops off precipitously.