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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Stop - SCUBA time!

Friday, April 10, 2015
Before fun, there is work! That is actually why I am here, right? Today I got a van at 'the gap' (this is the name of the little area in Questelles where the petrol station and van stop are) and headed to clinic in...Vermont! The clinic here is the only one I have been to that has a name different than the village. This one is called Retreat. I didn't take a pic of the building as there was no name painted on it. 

Oh, and stepping back to Layou, I forgot to tell you about my impromptu diabetes education. When I arrived at the clinic, the staff nurse was surprised to see me and know that Sr Allen was coming. She actually called Sr Allen to see if she should start her end of the clinic or not. She usually does vital signs and get blood glucose readings. I have met no one that has a glucose meter at home. The patients come into the clinic once in a while to get it checked. Anyway, she was concerned that patients would just leave after she got their readings and not wait for Sr Allen. So Sr Allen gets on the phone with me and tells me to go to the waiting room and do a diabetes education session with everyone! Um, ok! Sure, I know all the stuff backwards and forwards, but here I am in front of a group of strangers with cultural barriers. But I sucked it up and went out to talk to them. I introduced myself and told them we were going to talk about diabetes. I started by asking questions and initially got blank looks. Slowly they started having an exchange with me. We were connecting! We talked about the different problems caused by high blood sugar and everyone said they knew someone with partial limb loss or other damage caused by diabetes. It was going really well! They seemed interested and not just like - who is this white woman and why is she talking to us. Partway through my 'talk' Sr Allen arrived and joined in. We talked about healthy eating, exercise and more. Then it was time for clinic!

Ok, back to the present...or at least the day I was talking about. In Vermont we were to do an asthma clinic. I arrived before Sr Allen (this usually happens in part because I pad a lot of time in case I get lost or it takes a while to get a van). An older woman who was on the van with me showed me where the clinic was - as I said there was no sign. 

Vermont is the most tropical area I have seen so far and has a river running through it. In 2013 there was a devastating flood and some of the bridges are still being rebuilt. 

It started raining and since the nurse had not arrived to open the clinic, the patients and I took shelter under a couple building's awnings. 
Part of the village of Vermont

I don't know the river's name.

So pretty and wild.

When Sr Allen arrived, it turned out no asthma patients had arrived yet. So we did another impromptu education session in the waiting room. There is no HIPPA here. Sr Allen just asks people - who here has diabetes and who has hypertension? What she actually says is roughly 'who has de sugar or de pressure or de both'? People just raise their hands or share verbally. Privacy does not seem to be a concern, which makes sense when you live in a place where everyone knows everyone. I don't imagine there are many secrets here.

After talking to the patients in the waiting room for a while, some asthma patients arrived and we started clinic. We saw an older woman with well controlled asthma and several children. Most were well controlled, some less so, but almost everyone was using their inhalers incorrectly. Most people are using both their long and short acting inhalers only as needed - which does not work for long acting. Most of the kids also had improper technique. We did assessments on each patient and took a lot of time doing teaching and inhaler demos. A young schoolteacher in Questelles had actually died at home from an asthma attack the week before and Sr Allen used this example to stress how important it was to carry your inhaler and use it properly. 

Apparently a local past-time is burning stuff in your yard and this is difficult for many asthma patients. Fortunately there is little other air pollution here. 

After I got home from clinic I took a little nap and waited for Shamin to arrive from Kingstown. She came onto the mainland to finish her dive certification and did part of it Friday. The plan was for me to go into Kingstown with her Saturday and dive some as well. 

After she arrived, we headed up to 'the gap' to check out the local scene. There are several bars and a pool hall that I had not been brave enough to check out on my own. So we went to get some beer and meet some locals. 

We attract so much attention being white. Almost everyone seems to want to meet us and say Hi. Some are more shy and you see them glancing looks and listening to our conversation. But everyone is completely friendly. We bought a beer and then went to stand outside and chat. Brief rain would pop up time to time and everyone just moves inside. Later we headed down to the pool hall which has one pool table. Tat, the owner, is friend's with my landlord and she also serves foods like sweet potatoes and yams. 

I haven't played pool in so long and was not as good at it as I am at dominoes. :) And it didn't help that I attracted an admirer that was staring and getting too close to me. The other patrons told him to back off, but he was too intoxicated to reason. I didn't feel physically threatened at all, but it was not a pleasant experience. A nice young man named Ziggy tried to intervene, to no avail. Thankfully he eventually passed out sitting on the bench and was no longer a problem. After he passed out, the owner Tat then put white pool chalk on his face to get him back for how he treated me! It was so funny! We also met John Asquith, saw Marcos 'Melody' one of the men that helped me get the van to Layou, met a guy called Black who works at the market here, and met a tall rasta guy called Heavy D. Heavy D turns out to be a huge Duke basketball fan and made Shamin and me give him our autograph. He was so excited to meet someone from Duke! I have a surprise for him next time I see him - I'm going to give him the Duke basketball shirt I got at the game I attended. We also met a musician who plays reggae and calypso who said he was big in Germany in the 70s and 80s. So many characters! It was a fun night! We walked home in the dark with no street lights and Ziggy escorted us home.
Shamin, John Asquith and me

My would be paramour unconscious, Ziggy, Shamin and me
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Time to get our scuba on again! What an amazing time! I did a short dive with Shamin and her instructor, Dave from Indigo Dive, and then hung out on the boat while she did some skills checkoffs. After that and an appropriate 'surface time', the three of us did a dive of about 45 minutes to about 50 feet. It was just such an experience. I can't imagine walking on the moon could be better. It's like being on a beautiful alien planet. I got to 'hold' an arrowhead crab (which is spider-like because it's thin), saw lionfish (an invasive species), a lobster, schools of small fish, and lots of coral and seaweed. So fantastic! Here come a lot of pics as I had such a hard time picking my favorites.
International dive flag.

We dive at Turtle Cove. There are no turtles though.

Clear water!

Instructor Dave asking us if we are ok!
Dave and Shamin

Dave and the arrowhead crab.

Arrowhead crab and me.
I don't know what any of this is called. :) Do you?

That fish at the top looks Photoshopped.

Shamin and Dave practicing 'buddy breathing'.
Back on the boat for a break.

Back for the second dive!

Dave relaxing.

Hiding lionfish.


Right after this last picture, Dave offered to take a pic of all of us, but my camera battery had died. :( Maybe next time!

After diving, we made our way by van back to Kingstown and walked around for a bit. There was outdoor music from the gospel festival. We also stopped by the grocery store. 

Then we headed back to Questelles. We went upstairs to my landlord Smoker's place. He is called Smoker because is a lightening fast football (aka soccer) star. He used to play all around the Caribbean and other places and was named Saint Vincent's best player. He is a super nice guy. We went to get his advice about getting a van to the set of Pirates of the Caribbean the next day. Getting a van on Sunday can be tricky as a lot of drivers take the day off. 

I was surprised to find our new friend Black had been by to bring me some fruit! The bananas are usually only available at the local market a couple days a week and I had talked to him about trying to get some soon. He surprised me with a gift of bananas, two papayas and a bunch of limes. How nice and what a great way to end the day! 
Yummers! Thanks to my new friend!
Next post - Pirates of the Caribbean set and waterfall!

I hope you are enjoying my posts! Please feel free to post in the comments if you have questions or would like to hear anything in particular about the culture here!


  1. Lovely! Is mango readily available? Are there farmer's markets and is much produce grown on the island? How do the fruits and vegetables taste compared to what you get in the U.S.? Thanks for all your sharing!