Sometimes we are readily identified by the things we own--items that become associated as 'us'. One such item was this ridiculous umbrella I've been using for the past few years. Friends saw it back home and got their laughs, but I've had plenty of enjoyment using it here--where locals can spot me coming from far down the road and where rain is bountiful. This umbrella was a standard mid-size collapsible design with a black material spanning across the arms. What made it fun was the barrage of yellow smiley faces that blanketed the boring black material. Everywhere I went here, people were getting kicks seeing my funny-looking umbrella. It's quite fun watching smiles born from something else smiling back at you. Sadly, strong winds and regular use has taken it's course and the metal arms have snapped--beyond repair. I've already rigged it a few times, so I'm confident that it has run its time. Hopefully, this will be a small set-back. I'm already seeking out another umbrella....and yes, I plan to attach my smiley material on top of next umbrella. Rain is just liquid joy after all. ^_^
So many ask me what's new with me here in SVG. Somethings can be said through my actions or inaction--but at times I think reflecting on what goes on here can also help illuminate to friends and family just the sorts of things you can find here, for better or worse:
I'm spoken before about the underground economies of SVG--one of which is the marijuana production. I've seen its benefits to rural communities firsthand and its drawbacks to society in crime and other risks. Today I read for the first time an article that directly links government actions with this underground economy. So much could be said about this--I'll let you draw your own conclusions:
FINES: IMPORTANT TO NATIONAL COFFERS by Haydn Huggins
The State needs the money collected from fines imposed for marijuana possession. Chief Magistrate Sonya Young made this clear on Tuesday at the Serious Offenses Court after fining Wilfred Kelly [EC] $19,000. Kelly had pleaded guilty to possession of 34 lbs of marijuana with intent to supply. He was ordered to pay the court [EC] $4,000 in two days and the balance in four months. In default, he will go to prison for 20 months.
"Give me the money, the state needs the money," the Chief Magistrate told Kelly. before making her decision, Magistrate Young had asked Kelly's Attorney Grant Connell how much money his client could pay the court in part. Connell, suggested [EC] $2,000. Magistrate Young, however, insisted that the fine had to b much more than that. "I have to be paid, the police have to be paid," the Chief Magistrate delcared. "Now you see the nexus between marijuana production and the government coffers," Connelltold the Magistrate.
... In computing the fine, the Chief Magistrate had advance a value of [EC] $500 per pound for the marijuana However, Connell argued that the drug should be valued a [EC] $300 per lb because, "before the process of marketing begins, you must apply the lowest value because at that stage it (marijuana) is bush."
Connell has at previous court sittings highlighted the nexus between marijuana production and government coffers. He has also referred to marijuana as "our underground economy."
The Obama fascination
I am sure that many nations across the world are still basking in change of the U.S. presidency. Regardless of the opinions of the people around the world--nearly everybody is talking about it. I read the 3 major papers here weekly. In each paper so far, there has been no less than 4 articles each discussing the inauguration. There are many more letter/opinion entries and columnist submissions, each offering supplementary views. I know that many U.S. Peace Corps volunteers are excited to see what changes will come about, but we are tempered with the reality facing our new president on the ground back home.
Sex with a minor--difference of opinion?
Now I am not condoning any sort of under-age sexual activity. Heck with the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other STDs, people must be more careful than ever. However, I see a disparity between a couple of recent rulings--different judges, but still....draw your own conclusions:
In last week's papers, there were articles regarding a 67-yr old man who got 12 years in prison for having sex with a 7-yr old girl. It was commented that a term as such would keep him from doing such things again when he got out.
This week, I read about 3 men (ages 21, 20, and 17) who took a 12-yr old girl in their van to a back area and each had sex with her...and told her to keep it quiet, police business and all. It wasn't long before the story got out. These 3 men were put on 3 year probation; any other offenses and they would go to jail for 5 years. The judge said the oldest (21) should have known better. The judge also said, "I'm giving you all a chance to behave yourselves."
Seriously...I want to say more, but I'll keep my other thoughts offline.
Somebody is speaking up about plastics recycling!!!
Hopefully the strange designs of life might have tossed another possible project out for a volunteer to grab. This week somebody sent a contributing letter into the paper about a call for plastics recycling and an attempt to create an awareness of the growing 'plastic culture'. This is very true here and disturbs many of the volunteers here. There used to be some sort of plastic recycling here, but I haven't been able to find out much about it yet. Recently, my boss (the APCD) asked me and a few others if we would be interested in starting another recycling venture--glass I believe. If I can find the writer of the letter, I might have another local resource to help mobilize the ground work.
The wheel of elections will begin slowly....
The say the is a 2-party system here on SVG--the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the United Labor Party (ULP). There is truth that there are 2 parties represented in government. There is also a 3rd party--the Green Party, not to be mistaken as an environmental platform party. However, the 3rd party is not taken seriously at all here. There won't be elections here until the end of 2010, but already articles have started popping up about candidate selections. One intriguing article has asked for a '3rd' party, independent of the other 2 (should it have said 3?). There truly is a real political divide here--and it can be seen everyday.
We, the U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, have to be careful to walk a fine line away from party politics and yet be aware of where others might view our actions as supportive of one party or another. Simply having activities we may sponsor attended mostly by people of one particular party--the comess (gossip) could fly in the wrong direction and hinder our activities and projects later on. Sad, but true.
Wondering about cash prizes.
Every week, I read entry after entry and see a plethora of hand-shaking photos of award winners from major companies here. Nearly all of these awards are cash prizes, often weekly draws to reward consumers for spending on particular products or services. Now, I'm not privy to the financial statements or public relations and marketing expenditures, but I do see how many people spend money here and what the ground culture is in rural areas. Often I wonder what sort of social/educational/and other initiatives could be funded if these businesses redirected these award funds in 'corporate social responsibility' action drives.
I'm fairly certain that the people of SVG would continue supporting these local and regional businesses if it knew the companies were supporting the public through means other than large checks. I will acknowledge that I do some things, such as a sports team sponsorship, but so much more could be done...
An analogy from an article in this week's paper stated, the company here is a tree growing from the community soil. I would add that a fertilized soil that surrounded the whole tree would enrich the tree more than patchwork spots healthy ground.
And with that, I think I've babbled enough
Stay well and happy
~your local wannabe jedi