This week we had ample opportunity to go out in the community and experience the local culture in Saint Lucia. From the loud and rambunctious streets of Creole Day, to the more subdued Saturday night mass, the group was able to witness a wide range of cultural difference.
The first cultural seasoning the crew experienced was a Saturday night mass at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church. The mass was a long one, rounding out to about two hours in length, and during the service we witnessed a baptism and listened to local hymns and religious songs. The church, a beautiful one room building with no air conditioning and only rotating fans to cool down the parishoners, felt larger inside than we expected when we first saw it. It was decorated in cloths of green, yellow, and red, the national colors of St. Lucia, and many people wore matching dresses and clothes. The mass honored the eve of Creole Day, the last Sunday in the month of October, in which St. Lucians celebrate their Creole heritage. Normally the services are in English, but because of the special occasion the mass was in Patois, the language native to the locals on the island.
When we arrived at Creole Day the celebration was in full swing. Hundreds of people crowded the streets and enjoyed the festivities, and the blaring music could be heard a mile down the road. Food stands and makeshift bars lined the streets, and the St. Lucians talked, played games, and celebrated their heritage. At first we all felt a bit overwhelmed and disoriented by the many sights, sounds, and smells, but once we started to walk around and sample the food, we had a great time.
We even got to watch a demonstration of an old St. Lucian logging technique. First, a group of locals had built some scaffolding out of bamboo and wood and placed a large mahogany log on top of it. They then used a two-man saw held vertically to cut the log, with one man on top of the log and one man below. Unfortunately the man on top of the scaffolding had drunk a bit too much rum, and subsequently took a tumble. Despite witnessing this little accident, we all had a great time at Creole Day and left a couple hours later with smiles on our faces.
On Monday morning, John, Dr. Fredrickson, Peyton, Martha, Lauren, and Joseph took a trip to Upton Gardens, a school for girls that have been relocated by the state because of difficulties at home, school, or for a variety of other reasons. The five of us arrived shortly after breakfast and were able to witness the school’s morning meeting. The guest at the meeting was a woman minister from a local church who travels to different schools to deliver the message of the gospel. After she had finished singing and telling us the good news we introduced ourselves to the girls. Once we introduced ourselves, Dr. Fredrickson led us in a round of yoga and from there we went on to do some trust exercises, which are designed to help those in a group feel more at ease in each other’s company. When we all got to talking, the girls taught us how to play Cricket, one of the most popular sports on the island, and we told them all about Ice Hockey. In the end both groups left with good feelings about the time we spent together.