I guess you could say that I have “peaked” here in Grenada.
Last weekend, I hiked to the summit of Mt. St. Catherine, the highest point in Grenada at roughly 2,750 feet above sea level.
Yet, in reality there’s more to it than that.
This week we returned to school from the two-week Easter vacation, meaning that the final stretch of my Peace Corps service has arrived. This has me feeling a wide range of mixed emotions.
Before I go any further, I should explain how I reached this moment of complexity.
The second term of the academic year closed out with a Hiking Day at my school. It was a day in which several of the classes hiked from Gouyave to what’s known locally as “The Dig,” a nearby lake up in the mountains. It was an ambitious hike, particularly for the younger students. This manifested itself in the “jockeys” (piggy-back rides) I gave a few of the students at various points along the way. However, it was a pleasantly active day and although I was exhausted by the time we got back to the school, the students with their endless energy went on to play football for the remainder of the school day.
This hiking day was followed by our end-of-term Teacher’s Social at BBC Beach. As per St. Peter’s RC School tradition, the teachers organized a cook-up to celebrate the end of the term and the imminent Easter holiday. Much of the day was spent playing cricket on the beach, a game that I’ve truly developed an appreciation for in my time here. Other activities of the day included dominoes, Rummy, and bathing in the sea. At one point, one of my colleagues even captured an iguana to proudly show off before a group of entertained tourists. With all that, my vacation was off and running.
The following day Suzanna Swanson (PCV St. Lucia), my first visitor of the break, arrived. The weekend was spent exploring Ft. George, my community of Gouyave, and hiking to the Concord Waterfalls and Black Bay Beach with PCV John Lyness. The most ambitious of our adventures came on a later day, when we not only hiked to the fifth of the Seven Sisters Waterfalls but also were able to visit the Royal Mt. Carmel Waterfalls, in due thanks to an incredibly friendly Danish man we hitch-hiked with. That same afternoon in the nearby town of Grenville, we were able to spend some time with PCVs Katie Riley, Katelyn Earnest, Sydney Roth, and the assortment of visitors each of them had before making the long trek of buses back to Gouyave.
Then joining us on our Grenadian adventures was another St. Lucia PCV, Madeleine Humm. Directly from the airport we stopped at the West Indies Brewing Co., one of the only places to find craft beer on the island. After which, we spent the rest of the afternoon on Grand Anse Beach with PCVs Katie, Katleyn, Paige Simianer, Renea Perry, Amanda Cady, and others. While out in the water and equipped with an ever-scarce pair of goggles, we discovered numerous starfish of various sizes on the sea floor intermixed with the urchins and coral.
The next item on our itinerary was the infamous “Welcome Stone,” on the northern coast of Grenada. From this overlook the islands of Union, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique can be seen on the far-left, distant horizon. In front of us lay Levera Beach and the uninhabited keys of Sugar Loaf, Green, and Sandy Islands. To the right of the overlook was Bathway Beach, along the eastern coastline that leads all the way back to the town of Grenville. Due South of us, Mt. St. Catherine’s clouded peak loomed ominously.
After a brief stop at the Diamond Chocolate Factory in Victoria, we finally made our way back to Gouyave. Grabbing an order of fish and chips from Kelly’s HotSpot, we went up the road for drinks by Mansa. Halfway through the week and our around-the-island adventures was already nearing its end.
But the adventures didn’t stop there. After a brief stop at Grand Etang National Reserve to see Grenada’s Mona monkeys, we joined a few other PCVs to spend the holiday weekend at an Air BnB near Grand Anse. A quaint little home tucked into a hillside community, we spent the night playing cards and celebrating the mini-PC, cross-island reunion.
Good Friday was honestly one of the bigger highlights of the break. PCV Lili Gradilla and a local friend from her community organized a joint birthday cruise. Gathered for the celebration were Lili’s parents, local friends and counselors from last year’s Camp GLOW, members of Lili’s tight-knit community of Paraclete, and various PCVs.
The cruise took us out to the Underwater Sculpture Park, where we had the opportunity to explore the world-famous reefs and sunken statues in Dragon Bay. Then sailing back across the southeastern coast we anchored out in BBC Beach to continue the birthday festivities. By the time the sun had set, we graciously caught a bus home. That is before it broke down, as soon we found ourselves pushing the bus off to the side of the road and out of the way of traffic. Consequently, we quickly hopped into a nearby pick-up truck and hitched a ride back home.
Over the course of the weekend Suzanna and Maddie both caught their flights back to St. Lucia, as I returned back to Gouyave for the Easter holiday. True to the nature of Grenada’s “City that Never Sleeps,” an Easter Regatta was taking place on Easter Sunday and Monday. Therefore, my days were spent ‘liming’ alongside Mr. Ferguson, a fellow teacher, and a few other local men cooking-up a fish pot and watching the sailboats from a tarp-sheltered beach camp.
The regatta was an eventful one, complete with a greasy pole competition, swimming races, football matches, and tug-of-war contests. To top off this lively weekend was getting an opportunity to sail on one of the boats in the regatta. Cheered on by a few of my students from the shore while I was taken out to sea by one of the sailors and a teenage-girl in training, I did my best to stay out of the way and ensure the boat didn’t tip over on my account. It was incredibly liberating being out on the water like that and the view of Gouyave from the sea is one I’ll certainly cherish.
The following day, I joined PCVs Amanda, Paige, Renae, Briana Peterson, and Rachel Dean out to the V-23 Concert. It was a birthday celebration for one of Grenada’s acclaimed groovy soca artisits, Vaughn. The show featured performances by 23 soca artisits including Farmer Nappy, Lil Natty and Thunda, Mr. Killa, and a gold-suit bedazzled Vaughn himself.
With another beach day on Grand Anse intertwined with a few days of laying low at home and in the community, I then went on the aforementioned hike to Mt. St. Catherine with the Institute Hikers, checking off the final item on my Grenadian bucket list.
Now that the break is over, it’s back to the regularly scheduled programming of my Peace Corps service. I have ten weeks remaining of school, anticipating a return home shortly thereafter. It seems surreal that I’ve reached this point in my service already. Although it certainly has flown by, it is definitely beginning to feel like I’ve been here for a long time.
Admittedly, I almost feel like I’m running on empty. In my 23 months going on 24, I’ve poured everything I have into my Peace Corps service. I’ve integrated and served as a productive member of the community. I’ve explored just about all there is to see on this beautiful Isle of Spice, showcasing it to visiting friends and family alike on several occasions. I’ve experienced the culture, the lifestyle, formed friendships, and created memories that will all last a lifetime.
In short, I feel like I’ve wrung this towel dry.
But just as every mountain has its peak, the journey is not complete when you reach the top.
There’s still the return trip home.
Consequently, I’m going to enjoy riding this one out.