Happy Mahramani!

Today, Febuary 23rd, is the Guyanese holiday of Mashramani, an annual celebration of the founding of the Guyanese Republic in 1970. The holiday is celebrated as Guyana’s version of Carnival with a large parade in the heart of Georgetown, large floats for all different groups ranging from Ministry of Health to the Boom FM radio station, and many people dancing while festooned in outrageous outfits of the national colors; red, yellow, green, black, and white. Oh, there is also copious amounts of drinking and partying. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the celebrations in town today and take a bunch of pictures due to a stomach bug I happened to catch last night but that is just how life goes. Hopefully I can go next year!

In other news I’ve been very busy these last few weeks working at my health center and on some other projects I’ve been focusing on. I am trying to organize first aid classes for the teachers in the Parika schools (there are no school nurses or medical supplies in the schools here, a few months back we had a primary school student come in with a severe head laceration requiring twenty-something stitches), work with an American NGO to bring a first-responder based emergency medical system to rural regions of Guyana, and an diabetes mellitus type II epidemiology study focusing on knowledge and misconceptions about diabetes among diabetic patients and their caregivers in the Parika region. All that work is keeping me pretty busy. In my free time I have been hitting the gym, reading, learning a bit of Portuguese, and learning to cook and take care of my new house. Some people in the Peace Corps are bored allot of the time but I don’t have enough free time!

There is another Guyanese holiday in two weeks time, Pagwah (or Holi), the Hindu festival of colors. It is a fun holiday where everyone walks around and throws paint on one another. I will be going to Georgetown in a white shirt to celebrate and then leaving the next day for my vacation to Tobago where I will be staying with my family for a week in a nice beach house while relaxing and enjoying the beautiful country. I can’t wait to see everyone again and hope I don’t get sick again the night before the holiday/vacation (I’ve actually been quite well since moving, no chicungunya or dengue and I’ve been quite healthy otherwise)! Anyways, time to run back to the outhouse! Take care everyone!

New Year, New Post

I’m back again! I know I keep saying I ill post more often but I’m lazy and had little access to WiFi the last month or two of 2014. A lot has happened since my last post though and with my new access to WiFi I should be able to post on a (semi)regular basis. Well, let me fill you loyal readers in on what I’ve been up to.

I had some minor (and one sightly more than minor) issues at my old house I was living in in De Willem and spent the final few months looking for a new house to live in. The first house I found in Parika was approved by Peace Corps except the owner changed their mind and did not want to put bars on the sliding glass door to the balcony so I was unable to move there. I was able to find another house though in Parika a few minutes from my work and I moved in right after I got back to Guyana from my New Year’s Suriname trip (more on that later). It is actually a pretty hinterland style house with outdoor bath (I have to use bucket baths, there is basically no 20141205_092839running water) and latrine. The house is on a compound with my landlord to my left and his two brothers owning the houses in front of us. They love their dogs and when one starts barking, the other 30 start barking too but I’ve learned to sleep through that. I have electricity but use it sparingly but, being right on the bank of the Essequibo River, I get enough breeze to not need a fan or anything which is nice. My house is sparse for the time being, my only furniture being my cozy hammock that hangs inside but I move outside to catch some breeze in the afternoon.

My yard is nice and has lots of coconut palms, several banana trees, an avocado tree (or as we call it here a pair tree), cherry trees, and swettea (a type of fruit incomparable to anything in the US). I hope to start a small garden of vegetables bora, okro, callilou, and seasonings like shallot, celery, and thyme when I have settled in a bit more. I’d like to plant pineapple but it takes 18 months to grow so I’d have to leave before I start getting pine. It has been raining heavily (rainy season) since I moved in and I will embark on these projects when my yard in no longer water logged. 20150110_115650

I’m staying busy at the health center during the work helping to run the clinics in the morning and focusing on my other projects in the afternoon. I’ve been given permission by the government and schools to teach a teacher’s first aid class which I am planning and trying to obtain resources for. I also will start doing some health classes once a week or every other week at the primary school. I am also trying to get an epidemiological study on diabetes off the ground but it is slow moving. Hopefully that will pick up soon though. Lastly, I am joining in with some other volunteers on an environmental task force aimed at addressing environmental issues in Guyana through education. I also have time to travel to the gym three times a week which keeps me sane and in shape.

One challenge with this new house is learning to cook more for myself. Before I moved I had a20141123_094650 maid who would cook, clean, and do my laundry which was nice. I lived more luxuriously here then I ever did back home (and I was pretty spoiled by family cooking for me and never having a bunch of chores). Having said that, I was glad to give that all up for a little independence and the chance to grow and learn some new skills. Now I have a routine where I wake up at 5 am and make a quick breakfast (usually egg sandwich) and a cup of tea and then I hand-wash the clothes I wore the day before. I then sweep the house with my pointer broom and bathe before coming back in and cooking a larger breakfast of usually channa, fried plantains, or balonjae choca (mashed eggplant). Once you have a routine, chores become second nature.

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So now that you know what I am currently doing, let me tell 20141231_124751you about what I’ve done. After Christmas (was a nice but quiet day) I met up with a large group of volunteers and we embarked on a four day trip to our neighboring country, Suriname. Suriname is a rural, Dutch-speaking nation that maintained close ties with its colonizers after gaining independence. As a result the capital city, Paramaribo, is very European in its style and frequented by Dutch tourists and students who study in the University there. The trip there was an awful 18 hour bus ride going through terrible border crossings that sapped you of all desire and energy. 20141230_073057The city was still wonderful, enough so that I would gladly go visit again. I stayed in a cheap hotel with a few other volunteers (it may have been a brothel, we aren’t sure) but had a very fun time meeting up with the other volunteers the next day for the most incredible New Year’s celebration I’ve ever seen.

20141231_12443250 foot long ropes of fireworks were set off in the streets throughout the city blinding and deafening you as you get covered in smoke and debris and were followed by marching bands accompanied by dancers. As you wander through the crowded streets Dutch speaking reggae and dancehall performers sang on stage to the massive party going on bellow. Street vendors sold beers and food that was actually quite delicious. At around 4pm everyone goes home and naps and returns at about 9 pm to party more. We ended up spending the last moments of 2014 and welcoming in 2015 on the roof of a casino and then partying back at a hotel until the wee hours of the morning. It was a great time.20141231_13460220141231_134544

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The next day was not as exciting as we woke up at noon, went for a dolphin cruise and saw some river dolphins in the Suriname River and then had a fancy meal at Pizza Hut (some folks got sushi but it was to much money for me). Then we all just did our own thing before leaving at midnight for another arduous bus ride back home. The only problem I had with the trip was that we were there for too short of a time. I would love to go back and highly recommend it to others looking for a new and exciting way to welcome in a New Year.

Reconnect

Hey all!

I’m writing this post from the Grand Coastal Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana as we finish up our GUY26 reconnect conference. It has been three months since our amazing group of volunteers completed our training and were sent off to the different corners of Guyana to do our two year tour, and now we have all returned to share our experiences and sit through some more long and repetitive lectures on how to best serve. During the last three months we have lost two volunteers to ET and I wish them both the best back home and two volunteers are back in the US on medical and we are hoping they are able to rejoin us soon. Despite having to spend 8 hours a day in class, it is nice for us to all be back together and we have had a bunch of fun hanging out, watching the world series, watching some NFL, playing dungeons and dragons (yup we’re nerds) , and we will soon be heading out to celebrate Halloween in Georgetown. We are a fun bunch of folks even if GUY25 says we are lame!

As for me, the CDC blood tests came back showing that I did officially contract chikungunya. It is an epidemic in the Caribbean right now and its long term effects are unknown. It was a miserable three weeks during the infection and the symptoms can last for an unknown length of time. I am mostly pain free but I still get some bad knee pain and stiffness in my left knee when I have been sitting for too long. I’m hoping that this arthritis isn’t permanent but it doesn’t stop me from my daily activities anymore. I’ve been getting back to the gym and am also fully back into the swing of things at work. The staff at my clinic has grown in size but thanks to my counterpart and supervisor, I still have plenty to do and have a wonderful relationship with my coworkers and our patients. I have a few projects in mind but am still hashing out the details and I hope to start working on my projects in the community soon.

I recently got the chance to visit some other parts of Guyana by heading over to Essequibo, Region 2 where some other volunteers live and got to see Essequibo Night, a festival celebrating Essequibo, promoting agriculture, selling local goods, live music, and paiwhari (cassava alcohol). It was very similar to GuyExpo, a state fair like event in Georgetown that I worked at my neighbors photo booth for except that Essequibo night partied much later into the night. It was a very fun time even if I didn’t get much sleep.

Last week I got to experience Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. The Nani I live with lit dias all over the house to celebrate and people everywhere were lighting off sparklers and fireworks up and down the streets. It was quite a spectacle seeing all that at once and seeing everyone have so much fun. The only nuisance was the teenagers with their flash-bang grenades that they all bought for Diwali. They would run down the street throwing them at each other, and since I play football with them all, one or two were thrown in my direction and when they go off they strike you blind and deaf for a few seconds and it takes a while to reorient yourself. All in all, it was a fun holiday.

Honestly there are tons more experiences I could write about and I hope to be better with updating the blog. Guyana has its ups and downs but it is an amazing place and I value every moment here and know that I am positively impacting my community and taking steps towards the career I want. I am excited about what the future holds. I miss you all and thank you all for the support.

Peace out homies!

A few pics

Here are some pictures for the last month or so. I’ll add a new post later that explains what I’ve been up to!

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I’m back!

Hey all,

I know I havn’t been to active here lately but in all fairness I was pretty sick. I’ve was down for two weeks with dengue or chicungunya (they havn’t determined exactly what mosquito bourne illness it was that I had) and it was no fun. Fever of 101F, full body rash, fatigue, and the worst joint pain I’ve ever had. I could barely hobble 10 feet to the bathroom. Anyways that was a month ago and despite the lingering arthritis pains and stiffness that can last for up 2 or 3 months post infection, I’m back working and even started running the ball again a few days a week. I’m sore the next day but you’ve got to push on through.

My Peace Corps friends and my local friends and neighbors have been nice and supported me through all this. Can’t thank em enough. While I was down I stated watching The Wire for the first time, damn good show, highly recommend it! I also have been reading allot, read Mother Night by Vonnegut, Siddhartha by Hesse, some Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Arrabian Nihts, and now I’m halfway through Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. I’d highly recommend any of em (although Arrabian Nights can get a bit repetitive in it’s style).

I’m back working at the health center, school’s started but I’m not working there yet, I’m focusing on a health statistics project I’m doing analyzing local diabetes statistics which is keeping me plenty busy. I’m also working on a project with another Peace Corps volunteer on mosquito breeding grounds in the area, volunteering at the local HIV/AIDS support group, a regional health promotion club with other peace corps and local health professionals, and doing health talks on clinic days here at Parika Health Center. The HC is busy with allot of patients and I help out with as much as I can and then spend my afternoons working on my projects.

I’m doing well everyone and I’ll try to post some more pictures soon of where I’m living and where I’m working. Hope you are all doing swell and I’ll try to post more now that I’ve got more access to internet. Take care errybody!