to start, i mentioned in my last post that i would be going back to batsheba to learn how to surf. the day after i wrote that post i went with two other eap students, one of whom brought her surfboard here to barbados, and did just that. i know i described batsheba before, but just a recap: way more rugged and rough than the west coast of the island where i live. upon arriving at the beach, myself and the other girl who didn't have a board rented one from a random guy on the beach. i went out into the water with my friend elise, who has been surfing all her life. we went into what is known as the "soup bowl": this place is world-reknowned (is that the right spelling?) for it's consistent, rather large waves
. it was kinda intense jumping right in there and trying to learn on waves that were taller than me, so i got pounded pretty bad. i was able to catch waves easily enough, but standing up was difficult. after i tried for about an hour, i let the other girl come out and try. she decided to go around a little bend to a cove where the waves were much smaller, and i did that too. it was way easier out there, and i was able to stand and ride out a few small waves, which was cool. then i decided to paddle out back to where the bigger waves were, which was a bad idea because apparently while i had been in the little cove a swell had come in and the waves had gotten so big that elise had to get out and watch. i got completely destroyed by one wave, which ripped the board off the leash attached from my foot and tossed me all around the water. after it was done, i had to swim all the way back to the beach while big waves were still breaking. i was glad for all my experience swimming and lifeguarding and things like that, because it was an exhausting swim and i think people on the beach were worried i wouldn't make it. i went out one more time that day back to the little cove. in between surfing sessions elise and myself and meera explored the surrounding beaches and saw some beautiful scenery and things like that. i've seen so many beautiful beaches here, yet it's still not becoming routine or anything: i was blown away (again) by batsheba and the surrounding area's rugged, natural-looking, tropical coastline
. i went surfing one more time after that, just this past sunday. instead of batsheba elise and i went to a point just south of bridgetown, which was closer and easier to get to. the waves were very small for most of the day, although there was a time mid-day where i got some good practice in. overall, i've decided that surfing isn't hard to pick up if you can swim, snowboard, and aren't afraid of the ocean. the only thing that was bad about that trip was that we saw a bushwhacker: a man who sits in the bushes right on the beach and masturbates while he looks at all the women. apparently they are common in barbados, and we hadn't actually seen one before, just been warned. the man was relatively obscured by the bushes but we could definitely tell that he wasn't just sitting there. elise obviously thought it was disgusting, as do i, but since the guy probably wasn't thinking of me while he was doing his thing, i also had to laugh, because seriously, who does that? anyways it was gross and i really do feel bad for the girls who are subjected to that sort of perversion, especially since someone who will do that might also try to do more harmful things. so if you ever come to barbados, watch out and don't sit too close to the bushes, and don't go to beaches alone if you are a woman.
i'm not sure if i mentioned this before, but there is an intra-dorm competition coming up known as "unity week"
. basically each block (dorm building) competes against all the others in categories like a culinary competition, talent show, performance of a song, t-shirt competition, etc. my block is block 10, and we are known as "club X" or "the gentlemen's club". everyone in my block takes it seriously, especially since block 10 came in second place last year. we have been working hard preparing our song and working on our talent piece. we have meetings every night this week to practice for the competition. the most interesting part of it all is that each block has to come up with it's own funds to pay for all of the activities, ie, the t-shirt, props for the talent show, the food for the culinary competition, etc. most blocks hold bake sales or have candygrams or raffles or things like that to get the money. however, block 10's traditional fund-raising event is an auction in which the men of the block are made available for purchase. i was expecting just the dorm kids to come out and support the auction, but it's a huge event: it was held at the JCR (the outdoor common room in the dorms) and there were at least a hundred or hundred fifty people crowded around the makeshift stage. there was music blaring and one of the louder girls in the dorms, crystal, was responsible for being the mc for the event. each guy has to go out there individually in front of all those people while crystal hypes you up and tries to sell you for as much as possible. it is super intimidating and nerve-wracking, especially since nobody wants to go up there and be sold for like 10 dollars, because that's just humiliating
. anyways, i had told a bunch of my off-campus friends that this was going on so that they could come and possibly support our fundraising, and one girl, my friend Pegah who also goes to davis, had told me that she was going to buy me. the reason: in the "contract" which we have to sign after being bought, it states that we are to be on call to the purchaser from 8 am to 8 pm for three days after the auction. we are essentially personal servants for three days, minus class time. Pegah had a whole list of stuff for me to do, and won the bidding, mostly so that when we go back to davis she can tell everyone i had to be her servant for three days. i served out my time by doing her grocery shopping, cooking for her, and tagging along while she went to a spa. i didn't actually go in the spa though, don't worry. all jokes aside, she was chill about the whole thing and it was nice of her to support my block. i was glad when last friday came though and i was through with my servitude.
last sunday the student guild sponsored an island tour for freshers and anyone else who wanted to come. we were packed onto two buses and driven all around the island for a few hours. we started off by going to batsheba (it was my third trip there in four days), then up the east coast to speightstown, where we saw rocky cliffs and blowholes, which are points where water builds up in the rocks and then shoots out like geysers when the surf hits
. i was intending to take pictures but my camera ran out of batteries before i could snap a good one. after that we stopped at cheffette, which is a huge fast-food chain out here, and then drove back down the west coast to campus. it was a very fun tour, especially since it was put on by the guild. the guild isn't like student governments at home. here, almost every guild event involves alcohol. the first thing the guide on the bus did once we sat down was ask who wanted a beer. then while everyone was eating at cheffette the guy went to the store and bought a bottle of rum and some coke to mix drinks for the ride back to campus. it's crazy: the school practically encourages students to drink! a few nights later, the guild sponsored a foam party which was, without going into any details because of the wide variety of people reading this, absolutely ridiculous. caribbean people are very into "liming", which is just kind of hanging out and having a few drinks while chatting or watching a game or something. it's not like back in the US where students drink themselves silly every time, although that still happens when you get out to the clubs. it is very social and friendly, a much different atmosphere than back home.
as for the OTHER part of school, the academics: it is going fairly well. today is tuesday, so after my 5 o'clock class tonight, i'll only have three classes left for the week
. monday and tuesday are my busiest days, so it's nice to get them out of the way early. of all my classes, i like two of them the best. the first is my poetry class. it is fun going in and hearing what other people write, and being in a class forces me to write often, whereas on my own i would write very infrequently. we do exercises to practice our writing, and also workshop our own pieces that we come up with outside of class. everyone is very helpful with the workshopping and gives good advice. one of the students is actually a poet here on a scholarship who is very well-known in the barbados poetry scene, so it's really cool to hear his input on stuff that i write. at the end of the semester i will have to turn in a thirty page book of poems, so i have a lot of writing left to do. my other class that i really enjoy is spanish. i've never taken spanish before, while most of the kids have, so i am slightly behind everyone else. our teacher is this crazy guy from colombia who doesn't speak english very well. he is constantly asking us how to say things in english. he says really funny things, like the story he told about when he first came to barbados. he was speaking to his students and said he liked barbados because of the beautiful bitches. of course, he was trying to say beaches, and didn't realize the subtle pronunciation difference. he makes jokes and has us play little spanish games and things like that, and the class is overall very entertaining. halfway through the class we always listen to a song in spanish and he explains what is going on
. he plays the cheesiest pop music like ricky martin and shakira and it's so funny hearing him explain it. anyways, the class is awesome and i am always excited to go or see my professor outside the classroom. my other two classes, which are the "real" classes i am taking for my major, are fairly dull. one teacher puts handouts online, then prints it out, brings it to class, and reads it for the entire two hours of lecture. the other teacher is a little better, but still just takes passages from the reading and puts them on the overhead projector. it's very hard to be motivated to go to class when people teach like that, so we'll see how my resolve is a little down the line...
i'm looking at my list of stuff to talk about. ok, there was this crazy rainstorm the other day. it rains every couple days here, but usually it is fairly light or, at worst, heavy for about two minutes, then the sun comes out again. i think it was saturday when the storm came. i was woken up (at 12 noon of course--i had been out late)by thunder and lightning which was so loud it was setting off car alarms and things like that. the sky was really dark except when lightning lit it up. it started raining so hard that if you stood outside for more than a few seconds you were completely soaked. my friend downstairs from me had plastic sheeting overy his windows to prevent water from getting in, but the wind was so bad that it ripped it down and his room got flooded
. i helped him mop up his room as we waited for the storm to pass so that he could get maintenance over to fix his windows. the angle that my room is at is perfect so that no water gets in, even without plastic over the windows. the wind was blowing the trees all around, the street flooded, and other things like that. it was intense but fun to watch from inside. there is supposed to be a tropical depression coming in which should lead to more storms in the future.
on friday night there was a football (soccer) game down on the school field between freshers and returning students. i had my mom send my cleats and stuff in the mail (people call cleats here "tugs") so i could play. i hadn't signed up in advance or anything, but i walked down there anyways and asked if i could still play. they let me, so i got a shirt with a number and everything. now, i had expected this to just be a friendly game, but there were coaches, refs, and everything, and we were told that this game was essentially the first part of tryouts for the university team. there were also maybe 200 or 300 people who came out to watch the game. i was the only white person playing, and probably the only white person on the entire field, including spectators, and it was really intimidating. i got into the game in the late first half, and didn't do so well, as i was nervous. being a foreigner, especially an american, playing football here (or any sport) means you have something to prove right away, just because you are different from everyone else
. the first thing i did when i got in was try to take the ball away from an attacker with a little shoulder bump, which resulted in me being thrown to the ground (the guy was a lot bigger than me). i rolled and got all cut up and jammed my finger in the process (it was swollen and bruised for a few days and still hurts a little) but i still wanted to play, so i got up and kept going. i was all confused with what formation my side was using so i was out of position and generally making an ass of myself in front of 300 caribbean people. however, i got back in in the second half (at which point the freshers were already losing 4-0) and did much better. however, i realized that everyone here is super serious about soccer, so serious in fact that it wasn't even that fun. i mean i loved playing and feel like i could eventually compete with the people, but it was just a little intense. after the game i found out that the team practices mondays and wednesdays, and went to check out the practice on monday. only maybe about half of the guys who played on friday were there and the coach was yelling and screaming at everyone. i didn't even put on my cleats, and i think any football i play here will just be pick-up games organized with friends from the block or something. i was disappointed that i felt this way, since i really love soccer and had looked forward to playing while i was here. at the same time, however, i don't think that i would have much fun playing for the team. maybe another sport, like basketball
. we'll have to see in the future.
socially, i've come to realize a lot of things about myself and caribbean culture in general. this trip has been eye-opening in many ways. traveling abroad really teaches you things that you couldn't learn otherwise. coming here, i was adamant about not hanging out with american kids and thought that, if i tried, i could immediately assmilate into the caribbean culture. although caribbean people are friendly and outgoing, i realize now that this expectation was unrealistic. when you are placed into a situation in which you stand out (as i do in barbados) you are immediately drawn to those who are in a similar place. although i do resist isolating myself from caribbean people and have made many friends who aren't from america, my closest friends so far have been from the states. at first, this bothered me a lot, as the whole point of this trip, or any abroad experience, is to (or so i thought) meet people who AREN'T like you and ARE different. now, however, i've come to realize that my abroad experince is less about the final result (ie, how many friends i have from america vs. how many from the caribbean, etc.) and more about the process whereby i discover things about myself that i didn't know. i didn't know that i would have a tendency to bond more immediately with people who are similar to me, or that others would have similar tendencies. jamaicans in the dorms are more likely to hang out with jamaicans, grenadians with grenadians, etc. etc. i am still working on branching out from what is comfortable, and know that i will eventually make very very close friends from the caribbean, but i think it will take some time. i guess this is more for me to articulate my own thoughts, so if you want to skim or skip it go for it. it is extremely difficult being a foreigner and recognized as such wherever you go. i think part of the problem in bonding closely with caribbean people is that we (ie the americans in the eap program) want different things than them. for us, and i think for anyone studying abroad, this is a sort of vacation, with school thrown in. of course academics is important, but you don't go to a foreign country to spend all your time in a library or reading textbooks--you can do that at home. i want to see all of barbados, experience the culture, go to all the most beautiful beaches, try new things, and all of that. on the other hand, most of the kids i meet from the caribbean are either used to barbados (because they grew up here) or are used to the caribbean in general. therefore, they are NOT as interested in going on excursions around the island, going to the clubs, seeing the coastlines, and things like that. these are the activities which you remember from a trip like this, and as much as it sucks, most of these activities are done with other americans, which provides an incredible bonding experience. i do wish that i could bond more closely with caribbean people, but i wouldn't give up the bonding experiences with americans that arise from all the things i have been doing just to do that. the culture here is very academic, and if i really wanted to bond with the caribbean kids (i am generalizing, of course) i would have to stay home every night and study, something i am not willing to do. it's a delicate balance as i try not to become too closely associated with the american kids, who can be sort clique (is that the spelling?) while experiencing everything about the island that i want to. any comments on anything or advice or anything is greatly appreciated--post it. i'd like to hear what people think or if they have any experience with what i am going through as i try and experience all of the culture while i am here. that's enough internal monologuing for now.
i have class in a few minutes, so i think it's time i wrapped things up. a little more commentary first. in one of my linguistics classes, some students had a discussion on Guianese. Guianese have a horrible reputation in barbados and in the caribbean in general. someone explained to me that caribbean people feel towards guianese in much the same way some americans (albeit ignorant ones--sorry if you agree with the position, but seriously, get educated) feel towards mexicans: they claim that they come into their countries illegally, steal all the jobs, and basically aren't up to the same humanistic standards as other people. listening to these people bash guianese as they described how they live in crowded shanties with no water or electricity was very hard, especially since the people engaged in it are a part of the most privileged and highly educated group of caribbean peoples. at least in california, you would never hear that kind of discussion taking place in a university setting. anyways, i'm being kicked out of the lab now (a class is starting) so i'll have to sign off for now...much love, stay safe and healthy everyone, and look for pictures i'll post soon. until next time...
wow, it's been almost two weeks since my last entry! a lot has been going on (i have had to keep a list so i can remember everything i want to write about for each post) so i'll see how much of it i can get done now before i have class in a couple hours.