Changes, Cultural Adjustments, and Wardrobe Malfunctions

18 Feb

First, a couple puzzles from the photos I have taken so far on our volunteer trip to St. Lucia. I am not allowed to take photos in the village where we are working yet — it is essential that we not look like tourists but become part of the community as best we can. Starting on Thursday I will be able to snap a few photos so much more to come!

We have had to do some serious shifting and paying attention to the details has been critical. Before talking about those shifts, here are two Find the Difference so you can work on paying attention to the details.  Can you find the three differences in each of these?

Organizing and unpacking the supplies donated by so many generous people!

Organizing and unpacking the supplies donated by so many generous people!


Find three more differences in this one!


The Catholic Church in Anse La Raye originally built in 1796 but rebuilt several times over the years.                  They are one of our hosts for this project.


Now a peak into the first few days our #AdventureInService.

One of the first things stressed in all the material we received from Global Volunteers before leaving for our trip to work on the St. Lucia Project is be prepared to expect the unexpected.

We were ready to shift gears and pace. We were ready to roll with the punches as things came up and were fully prepared to be alert and to be ready to think on our feet.  We were even prepared to accept and work within a whole different set of cultural norms — even those that made us uncomfortable (and there are a few).

We were completely prepared to serve the local community — not teach or lead but do what needed to be done to best support.


The foundation of Global Volunteers 12 Essential Services project. The idea is that if you take care food and health and support children psychosocially, you can raise the IQ of a nation….

What we did not expect, however, was to change assignments after we arrived in Anse La Raye — especially when that assignment changed required completely different clothes to be appropriate and respectful!

Two weeks before we left, our assignments came via email along with very specific, culturally appropriate clothing requirements. Dan was going to be working in the Primary School and I was assigned to the Earth Box project. There is a dress code for volunteers who work in the schools so we took great pains to prepare Dan’s clothing so he was dressed appropriately.

I was going to be digging in the dirt and working with local mothers setting up Earth Boxes so each could have a variety of fresh vegetables at their own homes and available to them at the Catholic church in a space where the grounds have more than a few square feet to spare. All I needed to worry about was that I had simple clothing, not too tight, and pants that covered my knees.

When we arrived, we found out that the supplies for Earth Boxes were not there…. No seedlings. Not enough peat moss…..  So I was reassigned to…the Primary School!

The amazing project leader helped me fix the wardrobe failure (that is a long story for another day) and we again shifted! We are now better prepared and are expected more unexpected things.

My comfort zone is expanding every day in so many unimaginable ways!!

The Journey Begins: Dropping Assumptions

16 Feb

Assumptions are dangerous things. Not just because they can lead you in a wrong directions but they assume you know who someone is and what is about to happen.  They also keep you closed off from any new information buzzing around that otherwise might catch your attention.


My husband and I are in St. Lucia to work with Global Volunteers on the St. Lucia Project – a two-year-old initiative to raise the IQ of a nation (see video below). This US based group is doing all of this the right way by providing the best supportive environment for brains to develop through proven essential services – all with and through the efforts of locally lead and managed organizations.

We arrived a day and half early so my initial impressions are those of a tourist.

The St. Lucia Project Manager, Chem, and her husband, decided to meet us early so we could bring the supplies that blogger friends from so many places sent for me to bring with. (See here for how, in large part thanks to Midlife at the Oasis.)

So, on our first day, we arranged to meet across the bay. The water taxi dropped us off at the dock of the restaurant – two heavy suitcases in tow. We were greeted by a pleasant young woman who was busy preparing the patio to open for business. She told us her boss, the guy with the keys, was not there yet so she could not get us anything. She was polite, professional, and, as we described it later, tolerant of our being there before they opened so she kept the conversation short and worked around us and our two overstuffed suitcases.

Chem and her husband arrived and greeted us warmly. We took the supplies to the storage room and talked for a bit. When it was time to go back, we walked back out on the patio and the young woman, now wearing an enormous smile, relaxed posture, and with a warm, energized tone in her voice apologized for not knowing we were with Global Volunteers. The change in posture and attitude was very striking because all that was added was who we were there to meet and the realization of what we were there to do. What a shift! She and we both opened up and started to have a real conversation. We changed from just another tourist couple to people.

To be fair, on that day, we totally looked like your classic white travelers from our tee-shirts and hiking shorts down to our flip-flops, on an island that, in many areas, is filled with tourist living in vacation mode, whatever that looks like for each. For some, not all, that carries an entitled attitude and the human beings on the other side of that attitude might very well be justified in steeling themselves from the sting of those encounters. So, I get it – completely.

It is encouraging, though, that when we went to meet Chem that day and deliver donated supplies we collected from so many for the programs we are excited to start serving, we flipped a switch and changed who we were in this one young woman’s eyes. That is the power of not just good intentions but good intentions backed by thoughtful actions – ones that change lives. Check out Global Volunteers’ mission and guiding principles. I am watching this work….

More to come and, as internet allows, you may follow our journey on Instagram and Twitter #AdventureInService and #StLuciaProject.

Answers to Alzheimer’s Awareness Word Search

3 Dec

Answer Key Wed Words 11712

Beach Family Answer

24 Nov

beach family static answer

Belize image answer

24 Nov

crazy image static answer

beach gazers answer

24 Nov

Beach gazers static answer

hammock answer

24 Nov

hammock static answer

Hiking, Learning, and Honoring the Past in Travel Puzzles

3 Sep

When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture sometimes the world becomes clearer and you see how everything just seems to fit together.  This week’s exercise is a great example of  just that.  Random slices out of a whole scene don’t tell you the whole story and you don’t get the rich in depth view of the experience.

My bigger picture includes living a purposeful life and I try to push myself each day to amplify my experiences by including those things that are meaningful and important to me on a deeper level. I look for those things I love-what makes me happy and feel fulfilled-and turn the volume up on those experiences.  So, when planning a trip, even a two day train get away, my husband and I try to amplify our experience, and make our travel purposeful where ever possible.

We love to hike,  learn, and uncover pieces of the past so a trip to Painted Rock. Carrizo Plain National Monument via Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner to check out an ancient Native American Chumash site seemed to fit our needs perfectly.

Of course you must always pack the proper shoes for the occasion. This is a photo of me, in my natural environment.

hiking boots

Pre-planing served us well on this trip. Carrizo National Monument is open to the public and there is no admission fee however, Painted Rock is behind a locked gate in a protected area.  From March to mid-July you must get a guided a tour and those can be arranged at the Education Center. The rest of the year, you can do a self-guided tour but you must apply for access, get approved, and get a gate code to access the site.  The night before we left for our trip we got our access code via email!

One of the first things we saw was this rock cluster covered with different colored lichen-the stuff that rock art paint is made of! Orange, green, red, and, at this site, even purple lichen covered the rocks.

paint material

Of course, these creatures (Dan and me), in their natural element must take photos!

shaddow camera

The whole scene was a bit eerie. Here we were, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, completely alone. Or so we thought.  Check out what is coming over the hill.

elk 2

And here he is, in all his glory, at full glide, across the side of the hill. It always amazes me just how graceful full grown elk can be.

Elk 1


At the end of 3/4 mile hike and some serious exploring and wonder, we came to another rock formation just sitting in the middle of this huge plain.  The rocks formed a protected bowl and here is just a sampling of what we found in that bowl.

rock art chumash

The Chumash used this area for ceremonies and gatherings. Standing in the middle of the rocks, you can almost feel the ancients, hear the drums and the singing, see the dancers and painters, and experience the rich history this place holds.

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And some bonus photos of this amazing site!

The trail in…. Hot, dry, and completely civilization-free!P1130001 (2)

Across the Carrizo Plain is the dried up Soda Lake…. More on this next week but this shot of the vast plain gives you an idea just how alone we were on this site. Very powerful feeling.

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And there, in the distance, was the Painted Rock site.

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Rock art is a generic term for the images left behind by the ancients all over the world. There are two types of rock art: petroglyphs and pictographs.

This etching is one of the first images we saw as we walked.  Carvings are called petroglyphs.

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Paintings like this one are called pictographs. This particular, was mostly likely painting using lichen similar to what is still present on the rocks less than 1/3 of a mile away (see above).  We believe that this is a symbol that represents and a blanket but no one is really sure.

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Many of the stories, legends, and meanings were lost over the centuries but this one is pretty clearly a lizard!

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Purposeful travel is such a meaningful and enjoyable way to see the world.  Learn as you go, gain a deeper appreciation, and come out on the other side with a stronger, more connected appreciation of where you and those before you have been.



Travel Dreaming: Infusing Purpose Along the Way

29 Aug

The great thing about travel with the intent to learn, explore, and contribute to the world is that it flings open the doors and windows and gives you a view of the world like no other.  It is harder to hate or be impatient with what you have gotten to know on a more intimate level.  Traveling with a purpose, in my opinion, breeds tolerance and the desire to understand another point of view.  Take it from Mark Twain:

Mark Twain on travel


When you sit down for dinner with someone from another world, the lines that divide us become more blurred and you start to look for what unites us instead of divide us.   In the words of one of my favorite poets

travel maya angelou


I have been travel dreaming about sites closer to home.  What is right in our own backyards? It all, after all, starts at home.

This is one of my favorite travel songs because it talks about the stories we tell ourselves and each other, along the road.

My travel dreams are taking me to a place where we can all start to build a deeper understanding and stronger empathy for each other. A place, in this country where the lines that separate viewpoints are blurred beyond recognition so we can start to examine how we are alike and what unites us instead of being scared shitless of each other. A place where understanding might just might lead to a kinder, more peaceful country. It is a good dream…. One worth having and a conversation that we all need to have.

Do you feel that travel can help bridge gaps?

What are your travel dreams?

Travel Teaches

29 Jul

Mark Twain on travel

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