So how is the professional office life? Glad you asked! Let’s start with my appearance. Family and friends back home often ask me about how I have been styling, or “comb” as they say in Saint Lucia, my natural hair. Back in the U.S., I usually rock a wild afro or some other type of bold hairstyle such as bantu knots, top knots, super long braids, or even bold colors.
For the purpose of this internship, I decided to tone it down to “professional,” neat protective styles and color to avoid causing any unwanted attention or drama. I use “professional” loosely because natural hair (as in the unaltered, chemical free hair that naturally grows from my scalp) and hairstyles like braids, afros, or even dread locks are considered “unprofessional” in the U.S. People who hair refuses to grow bone straight (including European-descent with curls and coils) are expected to “tame” their hair into a “professional, neat manner”. (You can see more examples of hair styles in the pictures below where I discuss my clothes)
Well lucky for me the prominent ethnic group here in Saint Lucia is African-descent, so we share similar grade of hair. As long as you hair is maintained then you can do whatever you want for the most part. I have seen all types of colors, lengths, afro sizes, wild frohawks, bald, and plenty of dreads. People are even wearing their dreads wrapped up in scarves creating huge buns on top of their head to work. I am loving every last minute of it. As a result, I have reverted back to my natural hair care regimen of letting it be free with the wind. That was until one day I woke up, walked into a barbershop, and walked out with locks. (I am still shocked myself.)
–Even though natural hair is embraced here, women still perm or wear wigs/weaves. Nothing wrong with that at all, until you see this sign! I laughed for about 3 days at this sign.– As far as clothes that I wear to the office, I only packed a carry-on worth of business casual clothes and shoes. (By the time I leave here, I am sure that most of my shoes will be tossed from wear and tear.) For the same reasons listed for my hair, I opted to leave my bolder prints and patterns for more solid reserved patterns for the sake of “professionalism”. I was not aware of the office culture and rather be safe than sorry. Plus I didn’t want to have to purchase a new wardrobe because my clothes were too bold for the office. I somehow mix and match the little sample of clothes that I brought with me to make it work. I only have access to a semi-full body mirror at work in the elevator or the bathroom, so please bear with the “selfies”. You can also see more hairstyles I wore until I locked my hair. –These are the staples: dark dress pants, bright shirts and under shirts, and a commuter shirt so I won’t arrive to the office with terribly wet artmpits. I recommend everybody adopt this practice of wearing a commuter shirt!!–
–Random Sample (or pics I remembered to snap) of outfits I wore to work.–
Now let’s move to the office life. I have the pleasure of sitting in two offices during my placement. And in every office I load my drawer with essential materials to keep me going throughout the day.
My goody drawer is full of snacks (to build rapport with my unit, nobody turns down sweets) and to hold my bathroom bag. For some reason the toilet paper and the hand soap in the locked bathroom can go missing at any moment. So it is best if you carry your own to ensure you have all that you need to handle your business. I simply walked to Castries market and picked up this super cute bag to tote back and forth to the bathroom. (I sort of feel bad for the men. If they are carrying TP, then everybody knows your business.) When you are busy working hard, you may be disturbed by a walking vendor. They come to the offices to sell goods. I prefer the ones that are selling food. There are a couple of young girls that bring fruit and a gentleman that brings packaged nuts for sell. They always arrive at the nick of time when I need a boost. The goods are usually EC$5 per item.
Since I am constantly networking and exchanging ideas to improve the health of our communities, someone jokingly made a play on my last name and began to call me Ms. Mountain. I am abnormally optimistic and believe that if we come together, we can change the health status of our communities. I was told that I must have the faith that can move mountains and it stuck. I thought it was fitting since the Pitons are one of the natural landmarks here and I am here moving small mountains in healthcare. Well, call me Krystal Mountain, Krystal Piton if you are in Saint Lucia. *Ubuntu Krystal*