Island Life Update

The work has begun here in Barbados. Since last Friday, we have Skyped with Boston twice, and have begun our research project for the summer. We will be evaluating the PCC Profile, developed by Dr Cyralene Bryce, the study’s principal investigator in Barbados (and one of our bosses). The questionnaire consists of 204 questions, and has supplemental scales adding another about 100 items. PCC data has been collected from many of the participants in the study, including about 130 “G1s” (original participants, the first generation), but we will be the first to examine this data in its entirety.

The PCC is broken into several subsections, including social relationships, work and education experience, demographic information, and mental health. Its advantage is that it was developed by someone extremely familiar with the study and with the population of interest – it is highly culturally specific. Our task will be to compare each subsection of the PCC to another instrument that measures a similar concept, several of which have already been administered to the study’s participants over the years. Some of these other instruments are state-of-the art evaluative scales, others also claim cultural specificity – our job is to see how they measure up. I will be focusing on substance abuse and adult conduct (mostly discussing criminality and other deviant behavior). In initially entering the data and looking it over, I have not seen alarmingly high or surprisingly low rates of either, but I’m curious to see what a further investigation turns up.

Altogether, our work here has been slow to start and often interrupted by last-minute days off. It is clear that an important reason for this is the island’s culture and pace of life. As one American who has been involved with the study for a long time describes it, “People in Barbados tend to be exceedingly pleasant, but that doesn’t mean that the job gets done.” We learned a similar lesson the second time we tried to commute to Dr Bryce’s office. The 9:05AM bus that we had caught the previous day never appeared, and we ended up getting on a different bus about 15 minutes later. When we arrived at the office, we asked our supervisor Alana what she thought had happened. “Sometimes the bus is late, or doesn’t show up.” “Doesn’t that make people late for work?” “Yes… So what?” As my mother would say, people here seem to be lacking a sense of urgency.

However, I am also sure that our slow schedule is not only due to the Bajan lifestyle. It has become abundantly clear that the study does not need five American interns this summer, and our earnest efforts to be as helpful as possible have mostly been met with encouragements to relax. The organizers of our trip have been extremely generous, with lunches each day at work and day trips when we first arrived, and have encouraged us to learn as much as we can about Bajan culture with cooking lessons and assigned weekly presentations on national landmarks, monuments, and history. However, I cannot help but feel somewhat frustrated, and wish I were in a position to work harder and contribute more to this project, or maybe to something else.

I have been attempting to assuage this feeling of uselessness by assigning myself goals and doing things that I don’t have time for at school – for example, reading as many books as I can get from Allison at used book store The Book Den without breaking the bank (fortunately you can return them and get half the price back) and running along the beach several time a week. My housemate Daniel introduced me to an ab workout video earlier this afternoon which has left me feeling a bit like Jell-o in just 15 minutes.

So far, larger excursions (and sometimes even trips to the grocery store) have been tricky to schedule around the World Cup, an important part of several of my housemates’ schedules. I have to admit I’ve enjoyed watching the ‘football,’ although the Caribbean official broadcaster Sportsmax has the unfortunate habit of drawing Double Draw lottery numbers at halftime, leaving the theme music perpetually stuck in my head. The channel also has an amusing pre-game/halftime/post-game show that involves several men in lime green polo shirts discussing the game in front of slightly off-center TV screens while instructions scroll across the screen for the audience to text in their votes about who will win. Despite the demanding TV schedule, we have managed to get into Bridgetown and wander around, and have spent some time in the town of Oistins at weekly Friday night fish dinners, and buying our own fresh fish at the market. This weekend, we hope to explore farther afield, perhaps to Harrison’s Cave.

Not much to report…

Sorry for leaving such a long time between updates! Work here in Barbados has started, albeit slowly enough that I’m not ready to write much about it yet. We’ve been trained and are now starting to administer detailed nutrition questionnaires, which we will be doing once a week. The other part of our job (working with data) is yet to really get underway, but I’ll update when I have more to say about it.

In my free time, I’ve been to the beach, explored the neighborhood, done some reading, and watched lots of World Cup soccer. We’ve also had a few cooking lessons. Since there isn’t much to report, here are a bunch of pictures:


Emiliano cutting up a breadfruit. Boiled breadfruit tastes a bit like boiled potatoes, although somehow we all found it substantially less appealing.


Some tables at the Oistins fish fry, where we’ve spent the last two Friday nights.


Daniel at the fish fry, anxiously awaiting his massive plate of food.


The view directly outside of our second-floor apartment front door.


Nayab and Dionne (one of the people supervising us, including helping with cooking lessons) breaking macaroni into smaller pieces for macaroni pie. Macaroni pie is flavored with cheese (not enough, in my opinion), ketchup, some sugar, and peppery spices like paprika and black pepper.


“Reverse photobomb” of a very skeptical Emiliano (while cooking).


A panoramic view from the roof of our building. The balcony from my room provides easy access to a ladder, and this is quickly become one of my favorite spots. I also like how much the sky changes as you look across this photo – it was much darker in front of me (over the ocean) than to my right (western) side where the sun was beginning to set.Image

Another shot from the roof, where the sky looks totally different once again (taken within five minutes of the panorama).


While exploring the neighborhood, we discovered that one of our neighbors has a lot of pet birds outside of their house.

Part One: Tropical Vacation

My internship starts on Wednesday, but for the last five days we have had an amazing whirlwind introduction to Barbados. Alana rented a van and took us to various important sites around the island, including the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, Tyrol Cot (the home of Sir Grantley Adams, the first premier of Barbados, and his family), the Museum of Parliament and National Heroes Gallery (where we got to see the actual meeting rooms of parliament and learn about democracy in Barbados, past and present, and the ten official national heroes of Barbados), a cigar factory, and a tour at the Mount Gay Rum Visitor Center (the true birthplace of rum). We also ate lunch at a former plantation house (but didn’t tour it), and drove through (if I remember correctly) seven of the eleven parishes of Barbados, getting some spectacular views of both the east and west coasts, as well as the hilly countryside in the middle of the island.

Other than these adventures with Alana, my housemates and I have been exploring on our own. We went to the neighboring town of Oistins and had dinner at a fish fry, which included some delicious food, fun dancing music, and local merchants selling souvenirs for the many tourists in attendance. We also visited horse races only a few minutes walk from our apartment. We have been shopping and cooking pretty communally, and it appears that my fears of having nothing to eat were unfounded – so far we’ve put together a few different dishes, including extremely spicy Nigerian jollof rice that Sheila directed us in making (although it made my mouth burn, she claimed she could hardly taste the spice).

Here are a few pictures of some of what we’ve seen – many of the museums didn’t allow photography inside of them, so most of it is the beautiful landscape.


A dock that we sadly couldn’t walk on. Look at that beautiful Caribbean turquoise water!


More beautiful coastline, and Daniel’s back.


View from inside the van of a non-coastal road. Apparently we’ve had a record low amount of rainfall recently and the vegetation isn’t usually this dry-looking.


A house with awesome steps leading up to it. More countryside.


Daniel going to great lengths to capture a photo of the coast from up on a hill.


A photo similar to the one that Daniel was taking.


On a random hillside in Barbados, a mural that threatens to put Philadelphia, the mural capital of the world, to shame. Yes, that’s three-dimensional.


A back view of the historical plantation house that is also a restaurant we visited, including a really cool tree.


A harbor in Bridgetown, near Parliament.


Finally, the courtyard of our very own Margate Gardens condominium complex. Although we’ll be starting work tomorrow, I have a feeling my trip won’t ever entirely stop feeling like a tropical vacation.



Barbados at last!

Just when I thought I’d spent enough time in airports, it turns out I’ll have to return some time tonight or tomorrow to pick up my luggage, which didn’t make it onto the same flight from Miami as I did. Fortunately, the incredibly helpful Alana, who is helping to coordinate our settling-in process, is going to give me a ride to the airport to pick it up. Soon, American Airlines will officially have done a rough semblance of what I paid them to do. Sigh.
Once I got off the plane, Alana took my housemate Sheila (who arrived on the same flight) and I to the grocery store to obtain some provisions, and to the phone store and where I got a DigiCel SIM card with a few dollars of calling/texting credit and a few GB of data for the month. But there’s also wi-fi in the apartment, so I hope to be conservative with my phone and use the Internet for most things related to contacting the US.
Amusingly, none of my housemates/fellow interns (or I) really know how to cook much – I have a feeling figuring out what we’ll eat will be interesting. Hopefully we’ll be able to collectively learn to make some meals relatively soon. Based on what we’ve all collected from the grocery store, it seems like we’ll be eating a lot of eggs, yogurt, and rice.
Our apartment in the Margate Gardens condominium complex is pretty luxurious, with two floors including three bedrooms. There is a large balcony overlooking the courtyard in the middle of the condo buildings, which has a pool! There is also a small balcony outside of the window of my room, which faces the ocean (right across the street!). I’ll post some pictures soon, but right now it’s dark out.
Aside from their cooking inadequacies, my housemates seem awesome, and I can’t wait to get to know them better. Since arriving, we’ve gone out for a walk on the beach and had some dinner (I had a beef shwarma wrap) at the food court next door to Margate. Right now, all five of us are in the living room watching TV – we have quite a few seemingly American channels. We’re also all on our computers and cell phones. I have a feeling that one of my goals for the summer will be pulling myself and my friends away from these kinds of amusements in the evenings in favor of spending time exploring Barbados and bonding with each other.
Although I still don’t know details, it seems like we’ll be working four-day weeks at the internship – Tuesday through Friday. I’m hoping to find somewhere to volunteer or otherwise learn more about and contribute to this community. At the very least, I don’t want to waste the free time on anything short of exploring the island and having new experiences. I’ve never been anywhere for eight weeks before – my longest trips have been 4-5 weeks, and those weren’t all in one place, I’ve spent four weeks at a time at sleep-away camp as a child, and I spend most of the year at college, but eight weeks in an interesting mid-length time period. I hope to feel somewhat at home eventually, but not to fall into too much of a routine and to continuously expand my horizons as the summer goes on.
Tomorrow will be spent visiting sites in several different parishes with Alana. She has promised to bring us back in time to watch some important World Cup game tomorrow – three of my five housemates are apparently devoted soccer fans. Perhaps, improbable as it seems now, I’ll finally cultivate an interest in soccer this summer!

Slow Start

So far, my trip has started out… unfortunately. Due to a problem with the plane, my flight was postponed by twelve hours and I was forced to switch to another flight and will spend the night in Miami before arriving in Barbados tomorrow afternoon. Currently, I am enjoying the complementary wi-fi and the outlets to charge my computer and phone in Boston’s Logan Airport. Four more hours until my new flight departs!

Pre-Departure Thoughts

Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m going to be posting about my time in Barbados this summer as an intern/research assistant working on longitudinal studies of malnutrition and breastfeeding behavior from a psychological perspective, funded by Haverford College’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. I’m excited to learn more about these topics and develop my research experience, as well as spend eight weeks living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’ll be using this blog mostly to update my friends/family on my summer, post photos, and talk about whatever I want to talk about.

Barbados is such a beautiful and popular travel destination that I have frequently been met with incredulity and jealousy when telling friends and family about my summer internship (giving the inspiration for my blog title). Despite being grateful to be able to visit such a gorgeous place, I am also attempting to be very aware that my trip is not supposed to be a luxurious tropical vacation, and that my project exists in a complex racial and cultural context. I am a white American attending one elite American college and working with researchers from another (even more) elite American college, conducting research on human subjects in a country where 98% of the population is of black African origin due to an extensive history of slavery. I will endeavor to learn all that I can about the culture and the people that I encounter, and to navigate some kind of legitimate cultural exchange in a country with a long history of colonialism and an economy massively focused on tourism. Who knows whether I will succeed, but I hope to make some personal connections with Bajans I meet beyond being one of many many tourists who flood through their towns every year, assuming I find people who are interested in that.

Between the end of my semester at Haverford and leaving for Barbados on June 10th, I’ve been spending time with my family, seeing friends from high school, and generally enjoying being at the point in my life/college career where spending three weeks in Bedford is a great vacation instead of boring. It’s great to be home and visiting all the people and places that surrounded me for my first 18 years, but signs of growing up are all around as well. My little brother is graduating from high school this week, my mom keeps reminding me to put the photos and awards I keep on my bedroom walls into storage boxes, and I’ve been spending a bunch of my time working on a home-improvement project in preparation for eventually selling our house and my parents moving on. For someone like me who is thrilled by changes and new beginnings, these are very exciting times.

And with that, I’ll leave you with a picture of me working hard sanding my house’s back steps: