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 running 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.
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 a 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.
So now that you know what I am currently doing, let me tell you 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. The 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.
50 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.
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.