Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CCD and Pigeon Hunting

Well clearly I have let my blogging slip. This week is the beginning of another year of CCD so the last few weeks have been CCD-prep time.

To start with, the only books we have are 10 years old. So last year we did JAN - MAY without books, pretty much using what books we had as guides for the topics to be covered, and creating our own curriculum week by week.

It worked well but we came to the decision we needed to upgrade the books we have. So using the web and talking to publishers of CCD materials we finally ordered about $800 in CCD books for our 50+ kids. A bit of a risk since only a third of them have signed up (last year we went from 32 to 57 kids three weeks after we started classes).

The other innovation besides getting new books was getting parents to volunteer to help teach. The Navy base has had some turnover so the number of families on base has dwindled to the point that the parents have all offered to teach their own children in a 'home schooling' model. St. John's numbers are manageable with the same two mothers who have offered to help. It is in Cargill Creek we needed help, and praise God the parents have come out of the woodwork. Four different couples will host classes in their homes, with each couple taking 5-6 children. Ginni and I will still teach the Confirmation class and will meet with the parent-teachers once a month for support. So - all in all it seems under control with our first classes all kicking off this week.

While preparing for this was time consuming the day to day issues we encounter here kept popping up. For example, here's a typical afternoon:

Mrs C drops by unannounced with her daughter. Mrs C. is in her 70s and her daughter about 40. Mrs. C cannot read or write and lives in a remote part of Behring Point, the most southern tip of Central Andros. So they come in, sit with Ginni and I, then Mrs. C says, "Faddah, no lights!" pretty much just like that.

Ginni and I look at each other, then at Mrs. C, and Ginni says, "Did they shut your power off?" and both Mrs C and her daughter nod and say an emphatic "Yes, Faddah". Now I should explain a bit about the electric company here. In prior blog entries I explained how we lost power without warning for weeks as they instituted rolling blackouts for 4-5 hours a day in the heat of August. They had lost a generator and its all they could do to get some power to you. My frustration with this situation lasting for weeks was evident when I started calling the TV station in Nassau, the utilities commission in Parliament, the corporate offices of the electric company on Nassau, and anybody else who would listen. It was horrible.

Mrs C's situation was simpler - she hadn't paid her bill. Now the electric company billing system is even more frutstrating. First, there isn't a billing system. Everyone knows that on the first of the month you should go to the electric company office and they'll tell you what you owe and you pay it. The electric company office is in Fresh Creek. Mrs. C is in Cargill Creek about a 40 minute ride. She has no car, and even if she did, she couldn't read the bill anyway. So - after some time had gone by, they cut her off.

I look at Mrs. C and ask, "Are you here because you want me to pay your electric bill?" Instant smiles, "Yes, Faddah - no lights, the Church will help, you pay Faddah." I look at Ginni, she looks at me, we both look at Mrs. C - "How much is your bill?" Mrs. C looks at her daughter and her daughter says, "$600 Faddah".

I took a deep breath and explained that the Church doesn't have that kind of money, we barely have enough to get by ourselves (actually we don't have enough to get by - the Archdiocese sends us a quarterly stipend to cover the shortfall). Our weekly collection from Cargill Creek is about $180 (and it takes about $60 in diesel fuel to fill the van).

We talked about the bill, what the minimum was that the electric company might take to turn on the power, what the daughter might be able to do to help. We talked about how to avoid this in the future (Mrs. C does get a small pension from the Gov) but she needs to get from Cargill Creek to Fresh Creek to pay the bill. While all this was going on another parishioner arrived for an appointment we had made to discuss a personal problem in her life.

So Ginni goes outside to talk with her, while I try to wrap up Mrs. C, promising to see what I could do and come to the daughter's house later that day. (My plan was not to pay the whole $600, but to dip into some of the US donations I'd been given by friends, family, and parishioners of St. Timothy's to help in our ministry here. With a bit from us, & a bit from the daughter, we'd get the power back on).

We spent the next hour counselling and praying with a very nice lady with a difficult family situation that was now impacting her job.

Then it was off to the bank, then to Mrs. C's daughter's house. I explained that this should be private, she shouldn't tell other parishioners her private affairs, and that they really needed to be paying the bill on time because I couldn't do this again (last thing I wanted was to become their bank, we simply can't help everyone every time). With the groundrules agreed to they thanked me again and again - then it was back to CCD books.

If you remember - back in June was Crab season. We have land crabs here on Andros and June is when they crawl out of their holes to be scooped up by the burlap bag full. During evening the roads are line with cars and the bush is full of people with bags and flashlights as they try to find all the crabs they can. Crab-fest is a major event here on Andros and it makes a lot of money for those without any. If you missed the Crabfest blog entry go back to the entries in June and I am sure you'll find them - quite the event. However, today we experienced on better.

As we drove home from the first Confirmation Class in Cargill Creek, once again the road was lined with cars, just like during crab season - but this time everyone on the side of the road was carrying ---- a shotgun! Yes, a shotgun - car after car had men with shotguns, dogs, and little kids. It was the start of pigeon season and every now and then, as we drove by, someone would hoist their rifle to their shoulder - and blam - and the kids and the dogs would run into the bush to see who could get the downed bird first. Incredible.

So we survive this gauntlet and its late, we haven't taken anything out for supper, so Ginni says "Lets go to the Navy Base and see if we can get a pizza at the Lighthouse Pub". This is a burger and pizza place on the base that stays open after the Dining Hall has closed. So we go there and get the pizza and we start talking to a local who had just finished his shift and was there for the same reason we were. When we told him about the pigeon hunters out on the Queens Highway to Cargill Creek he said that last year they caused millions of dollars in damage because - when they shoot the pigeons, they shoot through the power lines, phone lines, and internet lines. So picture this, you're standing on one side of the road, a pigeon flies out of the tree on the other side and your birdshot brings it down - but when you shot it your birdshot also passed through the telephone wires hanging from phone pole to phone pole, taking out the phone and power service to Bowen Sound and all points north.

Ahhh Island life - ya gotta love it.

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