Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When One Door Closes...

Adios, Martinique... 

It's been a while, but my life in Martinique has come to an end.  It didn't work out as I expected, but hey, that's life.  And when one door closes, another one opens...

My new door has brought me to Austin, Texas.  I have the amazing opportunity to live with my sister and niece for a while.  

In the meantime, I'm working on a new blog project.  I've decided to focus my blogging on living an extraordinary and passionate life.  I'm really excited about it, and it makes me really happy to announce that I'll be launching it on my birthday!  

January 8, 2013


Stay tuned...


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spice Things Up

I've been in Martinique for over two weeks.  And although I've been having a great time, I haven't been motivated to write.  I don't feel like I have anything interesting to say.  And after all, didn't Thumper tell us that if you don't have something interesting to say, don't say anything at all?  (Okay, maybe that's not exactly how it goes...)

The truth is... Martinique is comfortable.  Yes, I am living on a Caribbean island.  Yes, it may seem exotic and exciting to others.  But the truth is, after you've lived somewhere for a certain amount of time, no matter where it is, it isn't new anymore.  You get settled.  You find your routines.  And yes, after a while, going to the beach does get old.

Just another day at the beach...
Anse Figuier

That's not to say that I'm not having fun.  Trust me, I am.

It just means that I need to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone.  I need to make an effort to spice up my life because just simply living here doesn't do it anymore.

View from my front door

So, what's the plan?

  1. Change of scenery.  Easiest way to break up your routine?  Get out of it, literally.  Go somewhere different, even if it's not far away.  I'm heading up north to St. Pierre tomorrow to meet some new assistants, and I'm looking forward to getting out of the south.
  2. Try something new.  Even if you think you wouldn't be good at it, try a new hobby.  You don't have to be amazing.  In fact, you can really suck at it.  But just trying something on for size makes life less monotonous.  And you never know, you could find something that you love.  I started sketching.  And although I'm not good, I'm better than I expected.  Plus, it's just fun to try something new.
  3. Take lessons.  Signing up for a class is a great idea because you learn something new, you have the opportunity to meet other people you wouldn't normally interact with, and it gets you out of the house.  I'm starting salsa lessons on Sunday, and I can't wait.  

The point is to avoid boredom.  When you find yourself bored with your life, everything seems depressing.  And nobody wants to be depressed (especially in the Caribbean).  So by taking a few simple steps to push myself out of my daily routine, it forces me to keep things interesting.  

And then in the meantime, I just try to keep myself busy... and slightly intoxicated.  


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Yoga Lessons

I would consider myself a yoga enthusiast.

I like the idea of it.  I enjoy doing it.  Even reading about it makes me happy.  And I have wanted for a long time to make it a more significant part of my everyday life.

I even looked into becoming a yoga instructor.  Except that I've never even taken a class.  Yes, that's right.  I'm more of a stay-at-home with Rodney Yee kinda gal.



So I researched local yoga studios to see what they had to offer.  I leave soon, so I was looking for a cheap drop-in rate.  That's where I discovered that Yoga for Health was having a Free Yoga Day.  What can be better than free yoga??  So for weeks, I have had this day etched in my brain.

I planned on going to two classes, the 7:30am Sunrise Flow class, and then the Beginners and Beyond class in the evening.

First of all, let's be real.  I always knew I wouldn't make it to the 7:30 class.  Come on.

But then I found I was also experiencing a lot of anxiety over going to this evening class.  I wanted to back out.  I didn't want to go.  Classes make me uncomfortable.  I wouldn't belong.  I would stand out like a sore thumb.  And the instructor would of course tell me my form was all wrong.

I just didn't want to go.  

But I went.  And I actually (of course) enjoyed myself.

It wasn't the most amazing experience of my life.  I didn't feel at ease in the classroom and found myself easily distracted by all the other people in the room.  But even in one hour of doing yoga with complete strangers, I felt a sense of community.  And it was this feeling that stayed with me, not my initial fear.

It was because I was experiencing so much anxiety about going to this class that I forced myself to go. I knew it was an irrational fear.  I was worried... what... that I would look stupid?

So think about this...

How many times in life do people miss out on great opportunities because of fear?  How often do you let your insecurities hold you back from experiencing something great?

When I'm faced with something I don't want to do, I always try to ask myself, "What's the worst that can happen?"

And if I can survive, even if that absolute worst case scenario becomes true, then I just say DO IT.

After all, as my new favorite saying goes..





Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Excited-yet-scared

Less than three weeks until I leave (again) for Martinique.  THREE WEEKS.

This is exciting and scary at the same time.  It's funny how even though I've been to Martinique before, even though I know people and I know what to expect, it's still a new experience.  So I still get that excited-yet-scared feeling.

I think a lot of people think that traveling is just a piece of cake for me.  But it's not.  I think even people who travel the world for a living probably still get nervous sometimes and still experience that excited-yet-scared feeling.  I don't know if you grow out of it just because you travel regularly.  It's just that those people allow the excited part to override the scared part.


"Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."
-John Wayne



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Happy.

Wow, the month of July flew by.  Just less than 6 weeks until I leave again for Martinique!

Last View of Martinique: May 22

A lot of people have been questioning me about why I'm going back and what I'm going to do there.  Valid questions.  But it seems that I never have the answer that anyone wants.  No matter what I say, I'll never please everyone, and I'm tired of justifying my decisions.

I'm doing this because I want to.  End of story.

People tell me all the time how lucky I am, how jealous they are that I'm doing all these things.  Well guess what.  It's not luck, it's a choice.  Opportunities don't just fall into my lap, I make them happen.  And you could too.


                       "The things you DO are your priorities, not the things you say you WANT to do."  -JD Roth


But I don't do anything alone.  I get connected with other people who have traveled.  I ask questions.  I read multiple blogs and books to give me ideas and keep myself motivated.  And of course, I have my family and friends as a support system.

I want to live my life in a way that can inspire others to do what makes them happy, to create their own rules, to go against the norm, and to live a life they want to live.

I'm 25 years old, and I love my life.  I love where I've been and I love where I'm going.  I am extremely happy.  Are you?



Head here for a bit of inspiration:
Live Your Legend



Friday, June 29, 2012

Drumroll, please...

Throughout my 8 months in the Caribbean, I had a love/hate relationship with Martinique.  When I left, I didn't think I'd ever be back.  I thought it was an experience that I was happy to have had, but I wanted something new.

But once I got back home, I found myself missing it a lot more than I had expected.  I missed the people I had left behind, and I missed who I was while I was there.

In my last post, I announced that I would be leaving Michigan by the end of September.  I didn't have any idea of where I would go.  But now it's official.



I'm going back to Martinique.



I thought my "Martinican Adventure" was over, but apparently it was just on hold.  About a week ago, I decided that I want to go back.  So on September 11, I'll be heading back to paradise.  But this time, it'll just be more as a vacation... well, a 3 month vacation.

What am I going to do?  How will I make money?  How will I find a job?  All valid questions.  And I'll figure it all out... eventually.

But for now, I'm just going to celebrate with a glass of wine.  Because I'm really, really happy.

Madinina, je t'aime

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Conquering RCS

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been struggling with reverse culture shock since being home.  It's been another week, and although I'm getting "back in the swing of things," it's still not easy.  

I miss Martinique in ways that I didn't expect.  I've only been gone for 2 weeks, yet it feels like it was a lifetime ago.  I had known for a while that I didn't want to live in Martinique forever, but I wasn't ready yet to say goodbye...

So to combat my reverse culture shock, I've created a few general rules for myself: 


Rule #1:  Stay busy!  This is the best advice for most situations.  It's just like when a relationship ends... You have to stay busy to keep your mind off of it.  I miss my life in Martinique the most when I'm at home by myself; staying busy is helping me keep my sanity!


Rule #2:  Don't talk about it.  I know this sounds a little harsh, but people don't really want to hear it.  Or if they do, they won't understand.  Unless they've lived abroad, people can't relate to your experiences.  Chances are, attempting to describe your experience in any detail will only leave you feeling more isolated.  So I will only talk about Martinique in a very general sense, unless pressed for details.


Rule #3:  Plan the next step.  Having something to look forward to keeps your mind occupied.  Obviously I've just returned from an amazing experience, but now it's time to get excited about the next one! 


I would argue that Rule #3 is the most difficult.  The next step??  I'm not sure what direction I want to head in, but I have decided this:


I will move out of Traverse City by the end of September.


There, I've announced it, so now I have to do it.  (I've been hearing a lot about social accountability and how telling your peers that you will do something helps you to actually stick to it.)

Where am I going to go?  Who knows.  What am I going to do?  Get a job?  Go to grad school?  Again, no idea.  But I'll figure out those details over the next few months... preferably at the beach...
 
At Lake Michigan

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reverse Culture Shock

Well, it's over.  It's been a week since I left, and reverse-culture shock is hitting me hard.

Honestly, I am happy to be home.  It's great to see my family and friends again.  I've been in heaven after finally joining the modern world and getting an iPhone.  I'm still shocked at the selection of produce at grocery stores.  And I can't help but smile each time I have an Oberon or bloody mary.

But I feel like a stranger in my own country.  I have changed so much over the past 8 months, yet everything here seems to have stayed the same.  I know it's normal to feel this way, and I know these feelings will fade.  But it doesn't make it easier to deal with right now.

I miss certain things about Martinique itself (namely the weather), but more than anything, I miss my life there.  I miss living in Anse Figuier with JY.  I miss speaking French and improving my speaking skills.  I miss feeling like every day brought new experiences that constantly changed me.  And most of all, I miss who I was in Martinique.



"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place... like you'll not only miss the people you love, but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again."
                                                                             -Azar Nafisi







Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One Week Away

A week from now I'll be in the air on my way to Miami.

I'm not sure how to feel.  A month ago, I was more than ready to go home.  Now, I'm not so sure.  There are plenty of things that I miss about Traverse City (and the states in general) but there are a lot of things in Martinique that I'm not ready to let go of.

But to me, life isn't about where we are, but who we are with.  It's about the experiences we have with those people.  And that's what I will miss the most about Martinique... the people I have met and the great times I have had with them.  One of the hardest parts about traveling is always saying goodbye, not knowing when (or if) you will ever see each other again.

Yet for every goodbye I have to say in Martinique, there will be a hello waiting for me in Michigan.  And it's those hellos that make me excited to go home.

The faces that I miss the most




Friday, May 4, 2012

I Just Don't Give a Shit

Now that my time in Martinique is starting to come to an end, I've been analyzing how this experience has changed me.  Of course I've changed.  But one thing that I have noticed is that Martinique has changed the way I view myself.

I have taken more time getting ready in the past two days than I did probably all of last month.  Yes, that's probably because now I have all the free time in the world.  And it feels nice to actually blow dry my hair and wear jewelry for the first time in weeks (or months?)... but at the same time it's just so weird.

At home, I used to always make an effort to look nice.  I would try on several outfits, always blow dry my hair, wear makeup, jewelry and scarves to accessorize.  I showered daily, and even if I was going to work, I tried my best to look halfway decent.  When I first got to Martinique, I even showered and put on makeup to go to the beach.  Really??

Now?  I just really don't care.  I can't be bothered to blow dry my hair, I only wear makeup if I'm going out, and I wear outfits that I wouldn't even be caught dead in at home (no, not even to go to Walmart).

To be honest, it's kind of liberating.  I feel comfortable with myself, even if I look like shit.  I rarely feel self-conscious.  And when I do make the effort to look nice, well, then I feel really beautiful... even while I'm sweating my butt off and the heat is wiping off all my makeup.

It will be interesting how I will be when I return stateside.  The culture is different there, and there's more emphasis on appearances.  I just hope that I can retain what Martinique has changed within me, even if I do go back to wearing makeup every day.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Highest of Highs

Today officially marks the last day of my contract.  Since I don't work Mondays, Friday was actually my last day of work.  I'm FREE... and it feels sooo good.

On Friday, I only had two of my classes at Morne Vert because the other two were gone for the day.  It was a little sad because as much as I disliked my job here, I am going to miss the kids.  Working with the kids was the only part of my job that I actually enjoyed (big surprise since I don't actually like kids very much).  I was flooded with hugs and bisous as I said goodbye, and I was really touched by how many kids said they were going to miss me.  I took pictures with them, which I would love to post, but I don't think that's legal..?

A Lobster Tale

**Note: Sorry for the delay... I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but I had trouble loading the videos.  Not sure if it was a problem with my internet, the website, or just me.  Point is, I finally figured it out.

Easter in Martinique is the season for crabs.  The traditional Easter meal is called Matoutou, which is made up of touloulou (a type of crab) and rice.  Apparently, it originated from the days of slavery because Easter Monday was the only day they had off to do as they pleased.  So they trapped crabs on the beaches to eat for their Easter meal.  Nowadays, I've heard that people hunt or buy crabs about a month in advance, feed them and keep them alive until about a week before Easter, then kill them by sticking a sharp needle between their eyes.  Lovely.

Unfortunately, I didn't get the opportunity to eat Matoutou.  But I was lucky enough to eat freshly caught langouste.  For those of you who don't know what langouste is, maybe this picture will clarify:

Café menu in FDF with English translations... sort of

Okay, so maybe Martinicans aren't the best at translating.  (For more proof and a good laugh, explore the Banana Museum website.)

Une langouste=lobster.  But not the type of lobster we are familiar with at home (that would be un homard).  Langouste are small, spiny lobsters that are used in creole dishes.  To further complicate things, there are even different types of langouste: langouste royale and langouste brésilienne.  

Last week, I went out on a boat with some friends while they hunted for langouste.  After, I went with Jean-Yves to his house to cook them for dinner.  And it was quite the... interesting... experience. 

Langouste Royale

Langouste Brésilienne 

Happy little Langouste family

As I was holding up the first langouste to take pictures of it, its legs and tail kept moving a little.  Jean-Yves kept telling me it was just the nerves, but I had some doubts when it recoiled when he tried to take his knife to it.  Still, he insisted that it was definitely dead and had been for hours.


(If the video doesn't work, try clicking here.)

After filming that, Jean-Yves admitted that maybe the langouste was still alive.  Awesome, I've just been playing with the poor thing!  Well, he didn't stay alive for long...

(Or click here)

While the butchering was a little graphic to watch, cooking the langouste was a little bit better.



Now, I've had lobster before at home, and I love it.  But langouste does not taste the same.  I don't remember lobster tasting extremely fishy, but langouste tastes like the sea.  It's like la mer in your mouth.  I enjoyed it, but for me, it's not something I would pay big bucks for.  At a restaurant, langouste can cost upwards of 30 euros.

Two days later, Jean-Yves and his friends went hunting for langouste again.  Joelle and I, along with some other friends, met the men on the beach in the afternoon to have a BBQ.  How amazing is that?  We got to eat freshly caught langouste on the beach in the Caribbean.  We had to pinch ourselves to make sure it was still real life.

I'm happy to say that even after 6 1/2 months of being in Martinique, I'm still experiencing new things and still finding myself surprised at how fortunate I am to have opportunities like this.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grèves...

Apparently, it's the season for grèves in Martinique.  The French are notorious for going on strike, and Martinicans are no different.

Last Friday was the start of a grève at the gas stations.  Here, there are workers that pump your gas for you.  Well, they're tired of their low wages and poor work conditions, so they went on strike.  I had heard rumors before it started, but I wasn't too worried; they had gone on strike once before a few months back, and it only lasted a few days.  Plus, there were still some stations that had stayed open.

Well, I underestimated the power of the grévistes.  Almost all the stations closed, and the ones that didn't quickly ran out of gas over the weekend.  By Monday, my tank was nearly empty, and I couldn't find a single station with gas.  I was stranded at my house, unable to go to work (or anywhere for that matter).

Finally, on Thursday morning, Joelle texted me as her bus passed a gas station in Schoelcher where a truck was getting ready to deliver gas.  Only 4 cars were in line.  I jumped out of bed and busted my ass down to the station.  By the time I got there, only about 10-15 cars were ahead of me in line, and the pumps weren't open yet.  I waited 20 minutes before the pumps opened, and only 5 more before I was able to fill up.  It's typical to wait hours in line to get gas during a grève, so I felt incredibly lucky to be in and out within a half hour.

57 euros and a half hour later, it felt amazing to have a full tank of gas

With a full tank of gas, I was feeling pretty confident that I could make it through this grève.  Until last night.

Now there are rumors spreading of the possibility of a grève générale starting Tuesday.  Back in 2009, there was a grève générale, where almost everything on the island shut down for a month.  Schools, grocery stores, everything.  And now it's possible that it's going to happen again.

Everyone is rushing to the grocery store to stock up, just in case.

As for me, I'm going snorkeling...


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Open Your Eyes

I haven't been writing as much lately.  It's not that life here isn't interesting, but everything has just become so normal.  It's hard for me to find inspiration.

How is it that living on a Caribbean island has become so normal to me?

I have just over 2 months left here, and I think I need to give myself a good kick in the ass.  I need to step out of the box.  There are still so many things I want to do before I leave, but I also need to rediscover the beauty in my surroundings that I have begun to take for granted.

Yesterday, Joelle and I were at a beach by my house when we realized that we've become jaded.  I used to be awestruck whenever I was near the ocean or at a beach, completely taken aback by the natural beauty of the island.  Now, seeing the ocean every day is normal and has lost its novelty.

I need to open my eyes.  Not just here, but everywhere.  Always.  Wherever you are, you should take the time to appreciate the beauty around you.  My goal for this weekend is to make good use of my camera and take pictures of everything around me... things I find beautiful, touching, inspiring, even strange or quirky.

Pictures I took the first week I was here:

Drive I now do every week

View from a hill in Morne Vert

Fort-de-France

And when I return home, I'm going to do the same thing in Traverse City.  I will capture the beauty in a town I have known all my life and rediscover what I love about it.  

What I'll return to (except during summer, not fall)
Silver Lake

Thursday, March 8, 2012

No, I Won't Be Living Here Forever

I love Martinique.  I do.  But I just really have some issues with this tiny island.

For a while, I had been debating on trying to renew my contract for another year.  If I did, I would have to be placed in Martinique again (you can't switch Academies).  Then I realized... I hate my job, I couldn't handle this for another year, and the only reason that I would want to stay is because of a guy.  And that's just plain silly.

Although I appreciate the warm weather, beaches, and language in Martinique, I don't get all warm and fuzzy from living here.  I have met some incredible people and have had some amazing experiences here so far, and although I'm not quite ready to leave just yet, I know that I will be when May rolls around...

I bought my ticket home, so I'll be returning stateside on May 22.  That gives me an extra 3 weeks after my contract ends to profiter a little more.  But already, I'm noticing a change in my attitude about living here.  

Problems I have with Martinican Culture and why I don't want to live here:

  • Attitudes toward women.  Martinique is a very chauvinistic society.  Men are clearly dominant, and women are mostly seen as objects.  Not a day goes by when I don't notice it.  I can't count how many times I have been whistled at, stared at, kissed at, hit on, etc. by random strangers.  At bars, parties, walking down the road, sitting in my car... anywhere, anytime.  And by anyone.  I have had men who could be my grandfather hit on me.  Although getting hit on can be an ego-boost, it is the opposite here.  It's just extremely irritating.  Especially because I know it has nothing to do with who I am or how I look.  The men hit on me simply because I'm a woman, I'm young, and I'm white.  And because their society finds this behavior acceptable.
  • Racial lines.  Martinique has a problem with race.  I find that Martinican women tend to be cold and stand-offish.  Martinican men just want to get you into bed.  Because of this, all of the "locals" I have met here and have become friends with are almost exclusively white Metropoles.  I find that Martinicans treat people differently according to their race.  I know a man named Olivier who is Martinican.  He is white, but his family has lived here for generations.  One night, I was at a party, talking to a man from Senegal and another (black) man from Martinique.  The Senegalese man was telling me that I should talk with this Martinican man because he was the only real Martinican there.  When I said, "Well, that's not true, Olivier is here and he's Martinican!" the man completely dismissed the idea.  "No, he's not really Martinican.  This man is the only true Martinican."  So according to this society, even a white man whose family has lived here for generations is still not a true Martinican.  
  • Teaching/Parenting styles.  Although I think many American parents sometimes lack in the discipline area, Martinicans tend to be a little harsh.  Loving and affectionate are not words I would use to describe the parenting style here.  Teachers and parents alike tend to yell... A LOT... at children.  It's common in a classroom for the teacher to verbally put down students in front of them.  I have heard of parents telling teachers that they can hit their children if they want.  Yes, that's illegal, but it still happens.  Almost every day, I hear my neighbor's baby crying.  Instead of picking up the child and consoling it, I hear the mother screaming at it, as if that helps. It's hard to accept this type of cultural difference.
  • Children's attitudes.  This could be caused by the parenting and teaching styles, but I find that a lot of children here are very poorly behaved.  I understand that at middle school and high school levels, it would be common for students to have bad attitudes.  But in elementary school?  There is a huge lack of respect for the teacher.  Few students take school seriously.  When disciplined, most students will smile.  They talk nonstop, they don't listen, and they basically do whatever they want to do.  Maybe this depends on the school, but this is what I have experienced in my two schools.


I understand that every culture is different, and every culture has its negative sides (don't get me started on Americans...).  I also completely understand that everyone has their own experiences; what I have experienced and how I feel about this time in Martinique is definitely not the same as what other assistants will take away.  

This experience has been very eye-opening for me, and I am incredibly thankful for that.  Living here has taught me a lot.  Although there were times that I had wished I had done the assistantship in mainland France, now I could not be happier that I came here.  I feel like I learned more here than I ever could have in Europe... about life in Martinique and also about myself.  

I might not be quite ready to go home, but I'm ready to experience something new.  But when I leave, I sure will miss views like these... 









Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adventures in Baking

Call me naive, but until I got to Martinique, I didn't realize that cookies are a very American (North American) treat.  Martinicans specialize in cakes, and I'm not a fan.  I just miss the wonderful gooey-ness of a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

So my favorite Canadian, Joelle, and I decided to bake some the other day.  Little did we know that it would be such a difficult task...

We found a simple recipe online at handletheheat.com:

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies 
From All Recipes
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand-held electric mixer, cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water then add to batter along with salt. Mix in flour until incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. Using a spring-loaded ice-cream scoop, drop even and large spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned

On the website, it lists this recipe as "super easy"... but obviously, that doesn't apply when living in Martinique.

Obstacle #1: Finding the correct ingredients.
Butter?  Sure.  White sugar?  Check.  Eggs, salt, flour?  Check, check, check.  Chocolate chips?  Umm... those don't exist.  Let's improvise by buying a bar of chocolate and chopping it up.  Brown sugar?  Oh, damn.  There's white sugar and cane sugar... Hey, that's two different types, close enough.  Baking soda?  Uhh... What is that in French?  After an extremely unsuccessful call to a French friend for help, we made an educated guess and bought la levure chimique "alsacienne."


Chocolate bars, as cheap as we could find

White sugar and Cane sugar

Still not sure if this is really baking soda, but it was close enough

Obstacle #2: Measuring.
Obviously, an American recipe is going to have US measurements.  It would be easy enough to convert measurements into Metric on Google, but do I even have any measuring cups, spoons, or a scale?  Of course not.  So again, we had to improvise.  Luckily, I at least have a pot that has the measurements etched into the side.  Baking doesn't need to be precise, does it?  

Close enough to a teaspoon

Look closely, US Cups are etched inside.  A pot is a perfect measuring cup!

Obstacle #3: Utensils.
A mixing bowl?  No.  Hand mixer?  Ha, no way.  Cookie sheets?  Yeah, right.  Something to chop up the chocolate?  Banging with a plastic spoon does the trick, right?  Cooling rack?  Eh, a large serving tray will do.

Using a pot as a mixing bowl, fork as a hand mixer

"Cookie sheets"

Pounding out some chocolate

Cooling rack (or "drying rack" as I kept calling it)

After successfully overcoming all obstacles, we decided our dough was pretty tasty, so the cookies, logically, would be too.  Into the oven they went.  (Trying to figure out exactly how my oven works is still a mystery...)

All mixed up

Ready for the oven

Perfectly browned

End result: Martinican-style American chocolate-chip cookies.
And they taste pretty damn good if I do say so myself.  Did the recipe yield 4 dozen cookies as indicated?  Of course not.  I don't think they take into consideration eating the dough while you're waiting...

But overall: Baking in Martinique?  Success.





Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beginning of the Worst Week

It hasn't been a very good week so far... And it's only Tuesday.

Sunday night, after a small house party in the afternoon, my friend Joelle and I went to a bar called Ti Sable for some Reggae music and dancing.  We ended up leaving early because neither of us felt very well, thinking it might have been something we ate at lunch.

As soon as I started driving home, I heard a weird clicking noise coming from my tires.  Since the roads were narrow and winding, we had to wait a while to find a safe place to stop.  When I pulled over into a shady little gas station, we saw that my back tire was very low, but it was still safe to drive on.  We decided to keep driving, stopping at every gas station to try to find an air pump.

After driving through a small town, we found a gas station to swing into.  There was a small little air pump, but when I got out of my car to try to use it, I realized there was no hose... and that when you touched the box, it practically fell over.  Ok, on to the next gas station...

We were back on narrow and winding roads in the middle of nowhere, at night, when the little click click click click started to sound more like a bam bam bam bam.  Oh shit.  Against our will, we had to pull over, only to see that my tire was completely flat.  So, it's 11:30 at night, two white girls pulled over by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with a pneu crevé... totally the beginning of a horror story.  And it was raining.

Do we know how to change a tire?  Of course not.  We couldn't even figure out how to get the spare tire out of the car.  We had no one to call to help us, so I called my insurance company to have them send someone (or rather, I made Joelle call my insurance company... after our experience of getting locked in a parking garage, I'm not a fan of calling for help.  You can read about that whole ordeal on Joelle's blog).  We just have the worst luck together..

Finally, after waiting for almost 45 minutes, the guy shows up to help us in a huge tow truck.  Really unnecessary just to change a tire, but whatever.  Within 15 minutes, we were good to go... only to have to drive another 25 minutes back home.  Our stomachs still a little upset, extremely exhausted, we finally made it and crashed in bed.

The next day, Joelle said she would take me to a hole in the wall tire repair place to fix my flat.  Used tires were literally piled up to the ceiling.  Luckily, the guy said my tire was repairable, and for 10 euros he could mend it up.  Sweet.  Then for another 5, he put it back on for me and even filled my spare with air.  Fixing my tire was surprisingly fast, easy, cheap, and free of stress or paperwork.  What?  Am I still in Martinique?

Now, I mentioned before that Joelle and I hadn't been feeling well the night before.  Well, the next day (yesterday), neither of us felt 100% but we were fine.  Unfortunately, later that night, I got worse.  (Joelle on the other hand got better...)

Starting at about 10:30 last night, I started puking.  And it continued... all night.  I couldn't even sleep because I was up every 20 minutes throwing up.  Finally, after 2am, I was able to go about 2 hours of sleep in between episodes of vomiting.  Quite honestly, it was the most miserable night of my life.  I have never been so sick before.  And being sick in a foreign country with no one to comfort you just really sucks.

Traveling and living abroad can be empowering and exciting, but no matter what, when you're up all night puking, all you really want is to be home so your mommy can take care of you...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Work

While I was home for Christmas, I had several people tell me how wonderful it was to keep up with my blog while I was gone.  But everyone kept asking, "What about your job??"

Well, I don't necessarily like what I'm doing here, so I don't like to talk about it.  But it's still a part of my experience, so here it goes:

My contract says that I am to work in the circonscription de Morne-Rouge, at the school in Morne-Vert.  I am contracted to work a maximum of 12 hours per week.  I am supposed to be an English assistant, an aide to the teacher while they teach the students English.  I can help with pronunciation, work with small groups, work alongside the teacher, etc.

That's what I signed up for.  However, my experience hasn't necessarily gone exactly how I anticipated.

My third day in Martinique, my tutrice (and main contact person) asked me to accompany her at a conference in Morne-Rouge.  Little did I know, it was a district-wide conference with about 200 teachers, and it wasn't until after I got there that I was informed that I would be making a speech to present myself.  Excuse me?  Sure, let me just jump right up there to the microphone and babble about myself in French in front of a few hundred strangers.  No problem.  But that's what I had to do.

Before I even had an idea of what anything would be like in Martinique, my tutrice asked me if I would be willing to include another school in my schedule.  Not knowing what it entailed, I agreed.  After my wonderful speech at the conference, another teacher asked to have her school added to my schedule.  Having three schools wouldn't be an issue, but most of the time, these schools would be reasonably close to each other.  For me, not so.  The Morne-Rouge circonscription covers almost the entire northern half of the island.

I chose to live in Schoelcher, in the center of the island, understanding that I would have to drive myself to Morne-Vert.  To go to Ajoupa-Bouillon, a teacher actually picks me up in Bellefontaine, which is about a 25 minute drive.  Then she drives me up to Ajoupa (about another 45 minutes to an hour north).  I ended up asking to drop my third school, Prêcheur, because I had to drive about 45 minutes north and then have a teacher pick me up and drive me the last 15 minutes.  It took too much gas, and it seemed like a waste of time.

So now, I only work three days a week: Tuesday and Friday mornings from 8-12 at Morne-Vert and all day Thursday at Ajoupa-Bouillon.  In the States, when you work from 8-12, that would normally count as a 4 hour day, but they don't count my hours that way.  You only calculate the actual time you're with students, so it only counts as 3 hours.  Then, even though I'm in Ajoupa from 8-4, it only counts as roughly 5 hours.  I usually leave my house at 6:20 am and don't get home until after 6pm... but again, that doesn't matter.  It makes for a very long day.

If traveling a long way was the only issue, I wouldn't complain much.  But I've had a lot of issues with my tutrice, the teachers, and the classes I teach.


  • My tutrice.  Although she can be very friendly and fun, my tutrice is a little crazy.  She can be a little flaky and demanding.  I cannot count the number of hours I've spent at home looking up things online for her, finding certain songs or pictures to help her with her lessons.  She asks me for favors often, which of course don't count in my hours.  At the beginning, she also asked me to go to several random meetings that never even concerned me.  She always seems to cause me so much stress.  However, my biggest issue now is that she has started to just not show up at school.  Which leads me to my next point:
  • The teachers.  Apparently, no one seems to think I need to know when teachers are going to be absent.  Technically, I am not supposed to be a substitute.  I should not have to take over the class if the teacher is not there.  My tutrice actually comes in to teach two of my classes in Morne-Vert, yet whenever she is absent, she makes me teach for her.  Since the beginning of January, she has already been absent 4 times... out of 7 days.  One day, she also "forgot" to tell me that one of the classes wasn't even going to be in school.  After a night of very little sleep, it would have been nice to know that I didn't need to be in school until 9 instead of 8...
  • The classes.  Again, I'm not supposed to take classes on my own.  Yet, my tutrice decided that I should.  So at Morne-Vert, twice a week, I take 12 students from CE1 (7 year olds) into an empty classroom by myself.  For the first few months, no other teacher was even in the classroom with me.  The kids are horribly misbehaved and almost every day I wanted to just walk out on them and cry.  I expressed my concerns with the teachers and directrice (principal), but the only thing that changed is that now once a week, the directrice comes in the classroom and observes.  She doesn't even speak English, so the only thing she can help with is discipline.  And I am still alone with the kids once a week, so I'm still struggling with the teachers to try to figure out a different solution.  

Overall, I've been extremely frustrated by my work situation.  It could be so much fun to teach little kids, but it just comes with so much stress.  Did I mention that there is no set curriculum that I'm supposed to follow?  And that everything is completely unorganized?  Oh, and that I am not qualified to teach these children, I am a teaching assistant.

And so, this is why I don't like to talk about my job.