Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gapsters Working Through Some Tough Stuff -- Both Mental and Physical Challenges

Petit Piton in the foreground, Gros Piton in the background... We tackled Gros Piton!
It is hard to believe that we are already going on two weeks in this beautiful country of St. Lucia! Though many of us are still making time for the beach, this week has been filled with less time for play and more time spent in class and on visiting more organizations within the community. With that said, it is safe to say that this week has been "Oh so enlightening," to say the least!

The week began on Monday spending several hours in both the morning and afternoon in our meeting space at the Pastoral Center grounds.  The time was spent in a "writing workshop" -- critiquing and discussing the concepts of hegemony and cultural imperialism that we were to have written a paper about for the course we area taking down here. Dr. Fredrickson and MoJo, along with our peers, were gracious enough to give us all individual feedback about our papers. This process was greatly appreciated by all and helped many realize the importance of multiple drafts and taking the time for revisions.

Our first readings of the week had us thinking heavily about what the word privilege meant in the world, and what it meant to us individually.  Our discussions on these readings about privilege had us conclude that everyone has some sort of privilege in their life.  What we came to realize through critical reflection on our assigned readings for class is that we must first recognize the privileges that each of us has, and then the challenge is to accept them for what they are -- simply opportunities that others may not have. But the larger challenge is not to put on a lens of judgement and to move beyond thinking that due to our privilege, that we are someone 'better than' or 'more entitled' to opportunities and resources than others who may not have the same privilege as we. We spent some time discussing how the ego oftentimes creates superficial barriers between one and one's neighbor, which contradicts the idea of 'universal love'.

Wednesday we dove into one of the assigned texts for the course, In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez. In this book, we learned about many important theories and concepts, such as liberation theology -- a fairly radical concept first proposed by Fr.Gutierrez, that challenges us to return to the original message behind Christianity. This message is to carry out universal love for all people. This theory would continue taking shape in our minds throughout the week as we continued to discuss and deeper our understanding of related topics and ideas such as a preferential option for the poor, which in a sense is the action step behind liberation theology. A preferential option for the poor suggests that if we believe in, or at least can support the idea of 'universal love', we must then give preferential opportunities to those living in poverty. Additionally, we also learned about the idea of accompaniment, the act of walking with individuals, figuratively speaking, instead of leading them. We had many in-depth class discussions about these topics and the next step is writing a formal analysis paper regarding the book and terms therein. This week definitely covered some heavy topics but we readied ourselves to take this new found knowledge and apply it to future experiences!   

Heavy thoughts with Jason Joseph
To take a break from our traditional classroom setting at the pastoral center, we were given the opportunity to sit in on a few classes at a the local college! Yes, you heard right, more school! Upon entering Sir. Arthur Lewis Community College, we were in awe over the amount of people there and the vastness of the campus.  As we proceeded to our first class of Adolescent Psychology, we were met by the familiar face of our professor, Jason Joseph (our music/dance instructor from last week, when we visited the Folk Research Centre). The welcome we received by the students in the classroom was immensely comfortable, and we jumped into conversation right away.  As the class began, a number of us recalled various psychology concepts that we ourselves had learned from high school classes back in the states. The class flew by and before we knew it, we were on to our next class--drama. In this class, we were given the chance to observe a play that six girls had been working on, which is scheduled to be shown later in November.  It was a very impressive Trinidadian play called The Ritual that brought attention to several possible situations a pregnant teenager in the Caribbean might face regarding the reaction of family, religion, and others (along with the consequences associated with each).  We were all very impressed and also learned a little about the Rastafari religion which is common to some areas within the Caribbean. We learned that it is a set of beliefs that stems from Africa, and that those who subscribe to Rastafari typically reject the notions of materialism, oppression, and sensual pleasures, suggesting that this is what leads to the larger degeneration of society.

Abby and Christian "trying to cook"
Food equals happiness with Fortuna

What is a true cultural experience without trying some of said culture's traditional food? Not a very good one! That's why Dr. Fredrickson, signed us up for a class in traditional Caribbean cooking at the Folk Research Center! We were met by Fortuna Anthony, a native St. Lucian woman who had been cooking traditional Caribbean meals for many years, along with her son, Nicos, an internationally trained chef. First we were taught how to use the traditional Coal-Pot by placing charcoal (made on the
Fortuna explaining how a coal pot works
island) on the top along with some wood shavings to get the fire started, (pro tip, if you don't have wood shavings you can use candle shavings as a substitute!). The two dishes we made were beef and pork bouillon that many locals traditionally prepared on Fridays, along with the national dish of St.Lucia--salt fish and green bananas. Salt fish is usually cod or blue fish that has been cured in salt for preservation. At the time of preparation, the fish is soaked in water (multiple times) to shed the layers of salt. Both of our instructors cooked with an ingredient that is often lacking in the sterilized American food industries--pride. Fortuna and Nicos were proud in what they served, which made the dishes that much better! The pork tail in the bouillon was so tender it slid off the bone as you slurped it off the spoon, and the savory salt fish complemented the sweet green bananas perfectly. Those two meals were the best we had on the island thus far; and we would wager, they still will be the best upon boarding the plane back to the states! Lastly, Fortuna gave us an original copy of her cook books signed "To the Gap students. Happy Cooking!". Needless to say, Caribbean cuisine is coming back with us to Wisconsin!

Well done Gap-ster crew!

This week was not just classes. We also took on a physical challenge when we took the opportunity to hike up St. Lucia's famous Gros Piton, a volcanic mountain rising just over 2,600 feet above sea level. We all stood in awe at the intensity of this impressive and imposing mountain that rose up in contrast from the soft coastal hills that surrounded it. Upon starting the hike up the steep and bolder-riddled ascent, not all of us were sure if we would make it to the top. Nevertheless, about two hours after first stepping on trail, all of us, including 4 local guides, stood in triumph at the summit. The hike was difficult, but it was well worth it. The view from the top was breathtaking, leaving us void of the little breath we had left! We were left awestruck at the vast enormity of the world and how small we all are in comparison.
Feel like we are on top of the world!
The view half-way up the Gros Piton trail, looking out toward Petit Piton

Stunning views of the Caribbean sea and beyond!
On Friday of this week, we received a shipment of building supplies to help us get started on the two houses that we are going to build with the help of our St. Lucian friends. Hundreds of pounds of materials arrived and was not limited to, plywood, 2 x 4s, 2 x 8s, and corrugated metal. All the Gap students got to work! We organized ourselves expertly. A few of us hopped on the back of the truck to unload supplies, while the rest of us formed an assembly line to take the building supplies further up the lawn where they would be stacked for storage until we need them. The sun was very hot and the work was hard, but thanks to the teamwork, we made short work of all that had to be done!

The Gapsters hard at work getting ready to build
The Gap-sters reach beautiful new heights!

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