It’s always hard for me to decide what to talk about when I finally get the time to sit down and write a post. So much is constantly changing here and it’s hard for me to focus on just one piece of my life without giving a very skewed perspective of what it’s like for me here. Since the last time I wrote, school started back up and I went back to teaching health classes at the secondary school, I went to Georgetown for an eye-opening workshop about the direction Peace Corps Guyana is headed in, one of my best friends here went home, I made home made chocolate-chip cookies in my family’s toaster oven (they were amazing!), I celebrated Amerindian Heritage, I found out my Grandpa has cancer (but the prognosis is good so far), Auntie Meno FINALLY came home from Canada with a bunch of yummy treats, and most excitedly, I got to visit my amazing friend Emily at her site in Manawarin! That’s a lot to write about so I’m going to focus on my Guyanese staycation!
Manawarin is an Amerindian village of about 1600 located in Region 1. For me to get there, I drove to Charity (15min) then took a 2 hour boat ride all the way out the Pomeroon River, up the Atlantic Coast, then in the Moruca River and finally up the Manawarin River. It was one of the most beautiful trips I have ever taken. The trees create a canopy over the small Moruca River and beautiful birds peak out of the lush forest. Once you make your way into the Manawarin River, the dense forest becomes savanna with breathtaking views.
The whole trip would have been worth it just for the boat ride there, but more wonder was in store! Emily greeted me at the school where she’s working, which happens to be at the center of the village. It was so great to see her and be introduced to the teachers at her school! They have just over 400 students enrolled for both primary and secondary school (its all in the same building). The village is very spread out so unless you’re living right in the central area you have to paddle your dugout canoe to school every day. For some students it takes over an hour to reach school.
To get to Emily’s house from school, you have to cross a large canal. When the water is high you have to paddle around, but water was low so I got to balance beam my way across on logs! I was really slow but I didn’t fall in!! After arriving at Emily’s house–a wonderful small, one bedroom, wooden house, I unpacked and gaffed (the creolese word for chatting) with Emily while she made dinner. It’s much cooler there than where I live so I slept so well (even without my fan!) and enjoyed the cool night breeze.
I arrived Monday afternoon so Tuesday we were off to school! The real purpose of the trip (as far as work is concerned) was for me to teach health classes for the secondary students focused on reproductive health. Tuesday I had my first two health classes which went well! Students here tend to be really shy but we had fun with some activities and explored what the heck goes on during puberty. I also read some health related stories to the third grade class who were just the cutest group of kids you’ve ever seen! Getting to know them all was a highlight of the trip. In the afternoon, I observed Emily’s literacy pull outs and helped her brainstorm ways to improve her library (I know it’s going to be amazing when she finishes it!). After school we raced around the field with some students and laughed until our sides hurt!
Lucky for me Wednesday was a holiday (Diwali) but they don’t celebrate it there (because they’re mostly Christian) so we got the day off to explore the village! Emily took me up to her uncle’s farm to weed and plant bora (a long green bean) and explore the jungle. I was really glad to see the farm and hear all about farming practices there since so many people sustain their livelihoods with farming. He has about 3 acres of farm where he grows bora, bananas, plantains, cassava (yucca), passion fruit, chickens, pumpkin, and more!
We got a tasty lunch for our hard work then took a short hike through the jungle with Emilys host brother and two cousins. I loved seeing the jungle through their eyes because they noticed the smallest but most beautiful things. They knew that a certain leaf would leave dye on your nails so they “painted” all of mine. They found the most beautiful flowers to decorate my hair and make me the Jungle Queen. They knew who’s farms we passed along the way. They (claim) to have seen a monkey but I missed it ☹️. I loved seeing the Guyanese Rainforest that I had heard so much about but had yet to see. It’s completely magical and shouldn’t be missed if you make the trip here. We were pretty exhausted after our farming and hiking (and soaked from a rainstorm) so we snuggled into Emilys bed and treated our self to a move! They don’t have electricity (occasionally they put on a generator and Emily has a small solar panel to charge her phone but there’s nothing consistent), reliable phone service, or running water so watching a movie is a real treat!
Thursday and Friday were busy days at school teaching and reading and getting to know all the amazing students! On Thursday I had the opportunity to help facilitate their Young Mothers Group where we talked about mental health during pregnancy and available contraceptives after birth. It was really insightful to see how they run their support group and I’m hoping to take what I learned and apply it to the group we’re trying to start in my village!
Saturday was our last fun day so we spent most of the time fishing and paddling around the village! I know it’s very unlike me to go fishing but we actually had a really nice time! We met up with a local boy who helped us catch some little shrimp as bait and then put our fishing rods (a stick with some line and a hook tied on) into the water! It was easier than I thought it would be and we caught enough for dinner that night! The sweetest lady cleaned our fish in exhange for a boat ride back to her house and we spent the rest of the day paddling to various people’s houses and swimming in the river. It was the perfect end to an amazing trip!
Sunday morning we left at 4:30am to catch a boat out as the sun came up. I wish it weren’t so hard to get there (it’s hard to get a boat other than Mondays) because I’d love to staycation in Manawarin all the time! A big THANK YOU to Emily for having me and sharing her life with me. It was so amazing to see another volunteer in their element and making a difference. And of course a big thank you to the people of Manawarin for feeding me, laughing with me, learning with me, and being eternally kind.