To imagine we have only been here a mere three weeks is impossible to wrap my brain around. There are moments in time that I feel as though I have been here forever, as I try to remember the ease of the life I left behind. This is the fourth time I have sat down in order to write this blog and I am not sure how far I will even get on this attempt. It is a strange thing to have ideas and thoughts running through my head all day and then struggle to find my words when I begin to type.
Blogging is new to me. It is difficult to trust yourself enough to share your thoughts with the knowledge that someone is on the other end reading them. I have kept journals before but have always kept them under lock and key, for my own eyes only. But alas, here we go:)
My Peace Corps journey began in Miami on April 27th. After a fairly ridiculous struggle trying to carry all of the bags I brought from the baggage claim to the airport/hotel shuttle pickup area, I already began to regret my packing decisions. I have never been skilled in the packing department and inevitably wish I had more of whatever it is that I brought the least of or whatever I took out at the last minute to get the bag to close. With that being said, packing for 27 months, using 3-4 different packing list gathered from current Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in Guyana, Peace Corps Wiki and my own group preparing for departure, was a logistical nightmare. The Peace Corps (PC) rules were that we could bring 2 checked bags weighing no more than 50 pounds each, 1 carry-on and 1 personal item. Since the carry-on bags did not have a weight limit, my goal was to pack the heaviest stuff in my carry-on roller bag to make the most of the weight restriction. This plan ended up coming back to bite me with Caribbean Airlines. For future volunteers reading this, I will include my packing list in a future blog, along with the “must haves” and “don’t bother withs” as I know them to be thus far. So after arriving in Miami, I found a couple other volunteers at the hotel for an early dinner and slowly more volunteers filtered in.
There are 34 of us: 19 females & 15 males, ranging in age from 22-72 years old with 19 education volunteers & 15 health volunteers. We are a very dynamic and diverse group and PC did a great job selecting each member. Everyone has their own personality, quark and knowledge to bring to the team.
After a brief layover in Trinidad, we landed a Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana. We were met with a wall of humidity as we exited the plane directly onto the tarmac into the dark night. A huge group from Peace Corps welcomed us with a giant banner, cheers and big hugs. And then right away our adventure began.
We were loaded into what I would later learn is a minibus and delivered to Splashmin’s Resort, where we would spend the next week in our own little Peace Corps bubble, unaware of anything that was waiting for us outside the compound. Splashmin’s spoiled us with hot water, air conditioning, a white sand beach, volleyball court and beach bar. Strangely enough I almost froze to death my first night in South America. Thinking my roommate wanted the room cold, I put on my sweatpants, North Face fleece and socks as the night went on and I continued to get colder and colder. The next morning I awoke to find she was completely under her covers shivering, just as I was. Lesson one on communication when sharing a living space. We spent the week in classes from 8am-4:30pm, learning about Peace Corps (PC), our training staff and our new country- Guyana. Our evenings were filled with volleyball, laughter, beers and generally getting to know one another better. I am truly lucky to be spending this experience with such awesome people!
After interviewing us to find out our preferences, the staff worked on splitting us between the two training sites: Laluni (Hinterland/rural/inland) & Timehri (Coastal/town/city). Deciding that I wanted more access to water, electricity and communication, I asked for a Coastal assignment. We had to wait until the last minute, just before leaving the resort to find out where we would be going for the next 10 weeks. I was relieved to be given the Coastal assignment I had requested. So 12 were sent to the Hinterland and the remaining 22 were sent Costal. After packing up (even more luggage than we came with- due to tons of paperwork, a giant first aide kit & a huge new water filter), we loaded back onto a bus and headed towards our new temporary homes. We met up with our host families at our new training site, Red Grounds, which is a part of a military base in the area.
My host family is a 52 year old female, Leila, her 12 year old adopted daughter Shenay, & her 11 year old great niece, Walisha. They have welcomed me into their family & I feel as “at home” as possible. They are really great people! I was surprised to find out they rescue dogs & there are approximately 45 of them, free roaming in the yard. Yep, I said 45. Most of them are mutts and about 15 of them are puppies. The first day we all got along really well and then the second day one of them, Malikai, decided he wanted to kill me. Needless to say, I now have to walk with a stick when I am walking in the yard or have one of my host sisters as my body guard. I am working on regaining as an Alpha and so far there have not been anymore “incidents”. My house is in Pearl & is a one story home with 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and a living/dining room area. None of the walls go to the ceiling and my bedroom window is glued shut- so I feel like I live in a little box. The house is super nice though and I am lucky to have electricity, a running shower, a flushing toilet and a fan! I have only come across 2 giant cockroaches so far, which I could not be happier about since some of the volunteers have bats, tarantulas, etc. My host mom owns a general store attached to the front of our property, which helps all of us when we figure out things we forgot to pack or need:)
Here are some other things that have happened in the last 3 weeks:
-My 1st meal with my host family was CookUp (which unfortunately had a plethora of chicken feet in it- unbeknownst to me until well into the meal)
-As of May 6th I had 31 mosquito bites (even though I am constantly covered in 30% deet spray & a new natural repellant- Pure Crab Oil) & they are biting me through my clothing (legs, rib cage & my butt)
-We have a 6pm curfew (thanks to last years group) & are already going stir crazy! Last Friday we took a minibus to the airport & grabbed a couple beers which was so amazing! Now we run to the airport bar whenever we get out of class before 5pm!
-Minibuses are crazy! They are these little buses that are suppose to fit 15 people, but get packed with 20+ and speed down the road far too fast! (please do not be worried- the drivers are really good at this & it is the only way to travel in Guyana- I will post a video but take it with a grain of salt & know I am safe)
-Creolese is nearly impossible to understand. Even though they are speaking English, if people are talking to one another, it is so fast and slang that it really does sound like another language. If people speak slowly- then I can actually figure out what is going on:)
-I am hot 24/7, dripping sweat hot. The only time I am not hot is when I am taking a shower (which is in cold water).
-We visited the capital of Georgetown, which left much to be desired, to say the least…but I PET A MANATEE!
The big news is that I am no longer working in the Education Sector. I formally requested a change to the Health Sector & my request was approved! I know it sounds crazy but I am so excited about how much there is to learn & do! I will now be working in a Health Center to assist in whatever capacity they need. Last week I helped fill prescriptions with the medic.
There is not a formal pharmacist in these smaller towns/villages. My main duty is a Health Educator will be to teach & promote dental hygiene, nutrition, breastfeeding for new mothers, hand washing and sanitation. I am excited to see what adventures the next few weeks will hold!
Then it all will change again. We get our 2 year site assignments on June 13th & move to our sites on July 4th!
I will write again soon:) Shorter & more witty next time!
(The videos are not posting so I will try to change the format & include them in my next post)