Kaieteur

Being away from home for the holidays is really hard. No matter what I do, nothing can replace making apple pie with my dad, a giant hug from my mom, and the sounds of family and friends as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats by on TV. As much as I hate to miss those moments, my Thanksgiving this year was about as good as it could get here in Guyana. During the past week I embarked on a 5 day trek to the tallest single drop waterfall in the world–Kaieteur. It was filled with challenging, exquisite, hilarious, reflective, frightening, inspiring, and blissful moments that, in the end, reminded me why I’m in Guyana.

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Hiking up to Kaieteur

Honestly, my time here has been hard. I’ve been stretched and challenged in ways I didn’t even think were possible. I’ve fallen down (literally lol) and failed and given my fair share of blood, sweat, and tears. But perhaps my journey in Guyana is not unlike the climb to the top of Kaieteur–the climb is rocky and steep and I lost my footing a few times, but the beauty of the falls is waiting for me at the top and the view is ever more incredible because I worked so hard to reach it. As I near the end of my time in Guyana, I feel weary at times from journey. But looking out at the beauty of Kaieteur, I was reminded of the beautiful people and places that Guyana has brought into my life. I am so thankful for the Peace Corps Volunteers who have become family, for the Guyanese friends who inspire me, for all of my host family who have taught me so much, for the kids that make me laugh, for the Peace Corps Staff that support me, and the cat that’s always willing to cuddle. I’m thankful to walk everyday with an incredible sunset in the background, to never be cold, to (finally!) see wild monkeys swinging though the trees, to chase waterfalls through the best preserved rainforest in the world, and to watch the coconut palms sway as I write this post.

The moment we first see the falls

As I stared out at the falls last week, I felt invigorated to finish my last 4 months here strong, and inspired find blissful moments of beauty everyday. Despite the challenges, I’m glad to live in a place where I can hike through the jungle with 8 incredible women (and our amazing guide Roy!) and have my breath taken away by nature. I feel more committed to finding happiness here every day and enjoying the fleeting time I have left in Guyana. Even though I was sad to be away from family this year for Thanksgiving, this year I was able to reflect more deeply about what I have to be thankful for–which, as it turns out, is quite a bit!

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Celebrating our accomplishment!

Cricket

Although I could write in length about the scary insects I hate, instead I thought I’d share a little about the game of cricket! Guyana’s love of cricket stems from its British roots (as is for most cricket loving countries) and almost every afternoon you can find kids playing a version of it in the streets. Beyond these informal matches, most secondary schools have a team, there are many competitive community teams, and there is the national team–The Amazon Warriors.

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Enjoying the game (even though we lost) at the national stadium!

I got to go to a Warriors game last weekend at the National Stadium! They’re playing in a tournament called the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) where teams from all over the Caribbean compete. Though the teams represent a particular country the players come from all over the world.

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The Guyana Warriors fielding as the Jamaica Tallawahs score some points.

There are MANY ways to play cricket, but CPL is a T20 tournament so I’ll explain the basics of how that’s played! Cricket is played on a round grass field with a hard dirt rectangle in the middle called the pitch. On each end of the pitch is a wicket (it’s like three sticks standing upright out of the ground) that the two men from the batting team are trying to protect. The two teams flip a coin to decide who will bat first and who will bowl (pitch/throw) first. The batting team has two men on the field and the bowling team has 11 men on the field. Because it’s a T20 tournament, each team plays 20 overs. One over is six balls so in total they get 120 balls. Unlike baseball where the teams switch back and forth, with cricket one team bats all their balls then switches for the other team to bat all their balls. When the ball is bowled (thrown) the batter tries to hit the ball and protect the wicket. If the batter misses the ball and the ball hits the wicket, the batter is out. If the batter hits the ball, he and his teammate run the 22 yards between the wickets to score points. Each time they both get to the opposite wicket they score one point. If the ball rolls and hits the boundary of the field, the batter gets 4 points. If the batter hits the ball over the boundary (like a home run) he gets 6 points. If they’re running and the fielding team hits the wicket with the ball before the runner has passed the line, then that player is out. The batter is also out if the fielding team catches the ball. The bowling team is trying to get all 11 of the opposing teams batters out so the match will end (though that rarely happens) or just try to let the other team score as few points as possible. It makes a lot more sense when you can see it, but that’s the very basics!

 

Jamaica’s bowler runs to throw the ball then you can see Guyana hit the ball and run for two points!

I’ve watched a lot of games with my host family on TV so I sort of knew how the game was played when we went to the stadium, but it was really fun to see it all happen in person! The game sold out so every time the Warriors hit a maximum (6 points) all 15,000 people in the crowd erupted with cheers, horn blowing, and flag waving! It was a great way to spend a Saturday night and I’d recommend trying to see a game if you’re ever in the Caribbean while a match is being played!

Camp Season

Guyanese schools go on summer vacation from the beginning of July to the beginning of September. During this time kids are left with a lot of free time so Peace Corps encourages us to run summer camps! During the month of July I participated in two incredible summer camps and want to share a bit of that magic with you!

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The team of PCVs that made Manawarin Camp GLOW possible!

Manawarin Camp GLOW

The first camp was organized by another volunteer living in Manawarin—a remote area of Region 1 (see map). It’s an isolated Amerindian village is located along the Manawarin River and you get there by taking a two hour speedboat ride up the Atlantic Coast and into the river. There’s no electricity or running water and very limited cell phone reception where we were working, which pushed us to be more creative with how we planned our lessons. I visited Manawarin last October and was so happy to have the opportunity to go back (here’s the link to my last post about Manawarin)! The volunteer organized a Camp GLOW, which is a Peace Corps initiative standing for Girls Leading Our World. These types of camps happen all over the world and I’m so glad I got to participate in one! About 30 secondary school girls traveled to the village’s school each day for a week to learn, play games, do art, and have fun!IMG_5066

Throughout camp, the girls learned about career options and how to plan for their future, nutrition, mental health, reproductive health, body image, relationships, communication, and leadership! My favorite day focused on careers, and the girls had the opportunity to talk to a panel of working Manawarin women about how they worked to achieve their position. After hearing from the panel, the girls were able to think about what career they might want and plan for how to achieve that goal! Between these sessions they had time to color, play teambuilding games, hang out with their friends, and eat yummy snacks. At the end of each day girls could choose if they wanted to go outside and play sports (cricket, volleyball, or football aka soccer) or stay inside and do a craft (e.g. friendship bracelets, fortune tellers, collages, decorating mirrors). Each day was a great mix of learning, games, art, and social time!

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My team (The Talking Parrots) working on their poster
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Girls showing off their comfort boxes
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Playing with our newly crafted fortune tellers

The volunteer in Manawarin has a passion for camps and she did an amazing job organizing everything and making sure the girls were able to come and enjoy themselves! She invited five other volunteers to come and help run sessions, lead a team of girls, and make camp special. We all fell in love with the girls and were captivated by the beauty of savanna backed by jungle. Unfortunately, most of us got sick by the end of the week-long trip, but that actually highlighted how wonderful it is to work with other volunteers. When one person wasn’t feeling well, everyone else picked up a little extra work to make sure everything got done and did what they could to make sure the sick person was doing alright. I really enjoyed working with the other volunteers and sharing this special week with them! Overall the camp was a huge success and a week that stands out in my service here!

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The celebratory end of camp group photo
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We had fun playing cricket after camp finished on Friday

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Soul Summer Camp

The second summer camp I did focused on students moving from primary to secondary school. All of our campers were 11 or 12 years old, and we focused on this group of students because the transition from primary to secondary school is big here and they’re also starting to go through so many other physical and emotional changes. Children usually go to the primary school in their village (or nearby) with all the other kids from their village. Oftentimes it’s the same school that their parents or grandparents attended as well! During grade six, all students take a national exam and how well they score determines which secondary school they’ll attend for grades seven through eleven. This means that the secondary school they attend is often outside of their village and the students going to school with them may come from all over the region. I worked with the two other volunteers in my region and four incredible local women to organize the six-day camp in a central location so 30 students from four different primary schools could come together and learn skills to help them transition from primary to secondary school and deal with all the other changes that come with puberty.

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The group with their completion certificates

Each day of camp focused on a different theme including self-esteem, relationships, puberty/reproductive health, body image, anger management, and emotional health. Each session got the kids moving and related the topic to what’s happening in their daily lives. After the session, students participated in games and art which helped them meet new friends and practice the themes we were teaching. We threw water balloons, crafted ‘comfort boxes’, ran three-legged races, drew silly pictures, played musical chairs, made stress balls, platted friendship bracelets, and more! The camp was high energy and a lot of fun! Fingers crossed we can do another camp this December…

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Working on art to better understand their identity
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Fun outside with a potato relay race
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Competitive cup stacking (I got very competitive…)!
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An energetic three-legged race!

I have to give a very special thanks to Friends and Relatives of Guyana (FROG) who generously sponsored our camp and are so supportive of volunteers here. Without them camp wouldn’t have been possible and their website is here! Also thanks to Bacchus Library who allowed us to use their space and is always supportive of volunteer projects!

Weather

I still get occasional questions about the weather here so I thought I’d do a more in-depth explanation!IMG-5104

First things first: It’s really hot here all the time. When I first stepped off the plane in Guyana I remember being hit by a wall of hot air so humid I felt like I could take a bite out of it. Although my body has definitely adjusted to the heat (which I think is a totally amazing process!) I still find some mid-afternoons to be miserably hot and I always welcome the cooler night air. During my early days here I felt like I needed to be glued to a fan but now I feel comfortable in the evenings and even cover up sometimes to sleep!

What most Americans don’t understand is that we don’t have 4 seasons here. Where I live is about 5°N (turns out that not all of South America is in the southern hemisphere!) so the length of day is about the same year round and the temperature is a fairly constant 82°F. This sounds like a really nice temperature but with the 80% humidity and sun beating down it gets pretty hot. I’m lucky to live right on the coast where we get great breeze off the ocean and I’ve grown a great appreciation for that cool wind when I’m dripping in sweat.

We do have 2 seasons during the year: rainy and dry. The main rainy season runs from May-early July and another smaller rainy season is in December-January. Climate change is really apparent here though and many farmers tell me that it’s hard to predict when the bulk of the rain will fall (which gets some rice farmers into a real pickle). Rainy season is nice because it cools everything down at night and brings drinking water for most people, but it also increases the humidity and makes it nearly impossible to get anything to dry (aka it’s a real gamble to put my clothes on the line after washing). We also seem to get more mosquitos in rainy season but I’ll have to make a whole other Bugs Blog cause I have a lot to say about those critters… When it rains the sky busts open and pours for about 10 minutes then stops for a few hours before starting again. It’s hard to tell when the rain will start coming down so I always walk with my umbrella (which I also use for shade during the hottest parts of the day) and have gotten soaked a few times…

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Only in Guyana can a grown woman walk around with a kitten and puppy umbrella…

That’s about all I can say about weather. No one talks about the forecast here like they do on the news in the US because it’s always basically the same (and the weather reports I can find always seem to be inaccurate). All you really need to know is that it’s hot and humid and my moments spent in A/C are very treasured!

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Enjoying a cold drink by the pool on my last trip to the capital!

Rupununi and Mabaruma

In the last month I’ve gotten to do some traveling around Guyana and wanted to share! The first trip was to the southern region of Rupununi (marked 1 on the map) and the second to the northwest capital of Region 1, Mabaruma (marked 2 on the map)!

Rupununi

I went down to Rupununi with two other volunteers for the annual Easter Rodeo! We flew to Lethem from Georgetown in a 20 seater plane and the trip was beautiful! Before coming to live in Guyana I had kinda assumed that Guyana was 100% rainforest but that’s not true at all! I live on the coastal plane which becomes rainforest as you move inland. What I didn’t expect is a huge desert at the south–that’s Rupununi! Seeing all the landscape change from up above during the flight was incredible!

Boarding our little jet in Georgetown

An overview of Georgetown as we lifted off

We landed in Lethem and were picked up in a off-road ready pickup to travel further south to Dadanawa Ranch. It was a beautiful 2.5 hour drive along the mountains and through the desert with the sun setting behind us. By the time we arrived at the ranch we were covered in dust and ready to settle into our guesthouse. We were pleasantly surprised by how nice our accommodation was! We all enjoyed the running water, electricity, and breezy veranda!

Our wonderful guesthouse

We spent three days at the ranch learning how they prepare for rodeo and enjoying a taste of cowboy life! We watched them corral the bulls they took up to Lethem for the rodeo bull riding, took a beautiful long walk, swam in the nearby creek, and relaxed with a good book while enjoying the view! Me, Emily, and Chelsea enjoying the veranda at our guesthouseExpert lassoing! Mary the howler monkey and I enjoying lunch at the ranch!

When our stay at the ranch ended we went back up to Lethem for the rodeo! We were able to stay with another volunteer and catch up with a bunch of PCVs that had traveled in for the events. We got a lovely tour of Lethem and headed out for the annual pageant which kicks off the festivities.

Unfortunately the rest of the trip wasn’t much fun. While we were enjoying the pageant the house we were all staying at got robbed and the whole house was ransacked. There were 12 volunteers staying there so it was a big ordeal figuring out what was taken and coordinating with the police and Peace Corps. Thankfully no one was hurt but it definitely put a damper on the rest of the trip.

We did manage to actually go to the rodeo which was fun! It weirdly reminded me of the Fathers Day Rodeo’s in Evergreen complete with bull riding, carnival rides, all kinds of foods, and crafts for sale. It was a good end to the trip before we flew out the next day. It ended up being a challenging trip but I’m glad I was able to make it down south to see the beauty of Rupununi!Bull riding with bulls from the ranch we stayed at!

Mabaruma

My visit to Mabaruma was much more straightforward! I flew up from Georgetown with two other volunteers to visit a volunteer living in Mabaruma. The flight was beautiful with views of the coast and dense forest. We rested for a little bit before getting on a boat headed to Shell Beach. This is one of 5 protected areas in Guyana and where endangered sea turtles lay their eggs each spring! We enjoyed the sunset, talking with the village toshao, picking up seashells, and catching up with each other. Aboard our 16 seater flight!

We went on the first patrol at 7:30 looking for turtles and although we didn’t see any turtles (there weren’t any the whole night) we did really enjoy the walk on the beach and the spectacular stars! I was glad to climb into my hammock for a good night sleep by the time we got back!Relaxing in our hammocks!

The next day we enjoyed a swim in the ocean and some relaxation before heading back to Mabaruma. We spent the next two days there walking through the area, visiting the “kissing rock” and the local swimming hole, seeing the hospital where the volunteer walks, and exploring the market. The kissing rocksHomes below the kissing rocksOn one of our walks

I always enjoy visiting volunteers sites and seeing them in their element! Mabaruma is developing quickly but still surrounded by incredible rainforest. It was a really lovely trip with good friends!The view of jungle on one of our walks!

It’s Complicated

As of April 4th, I have been a Peace Corps Guyana Volunteer for exactly one year! Some days I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by and other times it feels like I’ve been here forever, but either way I’m really proud to have completed a year of service! It hasn’t been easy but I learned more than I’ll ever be able to teach, I’ve grown a lot, and I’ve created relationships that I wouldn’t trade for the world. As I make the final lap of service, I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish in this next year and how the previous one has enabled me to do things I never imagined.

I just finished reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and highly recommend it! He talks about growing up in South Africa at the end of Apartheid and says a lot of things that made me think of Guyana. This one quote really stuck out to me: “People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.” I thought about this for a long time. I think he’s getting at something important but it’s even more complicated than that on the ground.

This past year I’ve been trying to teach people how to fish–I even came with a few fishing rods! But the challenge is not in showing them how the fishing rod is operated. The challenge is more basic. First you have to go to the community and see if they even want fish. Maybe they’ve always eaten chicken and aren’t really interested in catching fish with you or maybe they’re allergic to fish. Once you decide that the community does want to eat fish, you have to find people that have time to fish.Then comes the hard part. You have to convince those people that fishing is a good idea and will benefit them. Even when the community has decided that they would like to eat fish it’s challenging to get people to meet up and start the project. Next you have to find a time when all those people can get together for their lessons. Then the group has to decide what kind of fish you want to catch. Will it be fresh water or ocean fish? Little fish or big ones? The fish next door or the fish that live two hours away?

You can see how this gets really complicated. Before you can even get working on the project you have to work to understand community needs, convince stakeholders to support the project, and get to know the people involved. This is what I spent most of the last year doing. When people in the US ask me what I do here, my answer is often “it’s complicated” because I haven’t solved very many problems or completed any life changing projects in the last year. Mostly I’ve learned how to ask questions. I’ve learned which questions I need to ask. And I’ve learned how to interpret the answers I get (although I freely admit I’m STILL trying to understand creolese).

So as I turn the corner and enter my last year here I’m finally feeling equipped to start meaningful projects because I’ve spent so long learning. I still look forward to all the things life will teach me this year but instead of crawling along I feel like I’m finally starting to walk. It’s a long time coming and very exciting.

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The “back dam” of Dartmouth Village. I made my host dad drive me down there to go find the baboons I hear on my evening walks. I nearly went traipsing off into the forest when they started calling but he said it was too dark… You can’t see them but there are baboons in those trees making the most incredible noise. Someday I’ll meet them…

Mashramani and Phagwah

We recently got to celebrate two of the best Guyanese holidays back to back! February 23rd marked Mashramani and March 2nd was Phagwah—so lucky Guyanese got two Fridays off in a row! I really enjoy both of these celebrations so thought I’d share a little about my experience.

Mashramani is an Amerindian word that means “celebration after cooperative work” and the holiday celebrates the formation of the Republic. Check out more on the history here and great pictures from this year here. The theme this year was “Cooperate and Celebrate Republic 48” to mark the 48th anniversary of Guyana becoming a Republic in 1970 (which is different from Independence Day celebrated in May). It’s a little bit like Carnival in Trinidad but with a Guyanese twist. There’s a big parade with costumes and music in Georgetown but I stayed in Essequibo for the smaller celebration. The week leading up to the holiday was big fun for school kids. Classes were put on hold and kids played games, had a cookout, did a parade through the village, had another parade in the region, prepared dances and poetry, and made costumes. I participated in the regional parade where all the schools from the region dress up and dance through the streets! On Friday we had the day off and I joined a few friends to check out the festivities in Anna Regina (the hub of the region). They had a few big floats and one group dressed up with bright costumes! We just caught the end of the program but it was fun to see everyone celebrating Guyana. Next year I hope to see the big celebration in Georgetown!

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People gathered in Anna Regina for the end of the parade.
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Sabiena posing with one of the floats
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A lovely float from the Essequibo Technical Institute
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An awesome float!

The next week was Phagwah which is a Hindu festival of colors and celebration of good over evil. I’ve gotten various answers on whether it’s the same as Holi but they’re definitely grouped together. Phagwah’s history and meaning are also quite complicated but you can check out more info here. What I have learned is that most Hindus go to Mandir the night before and burn a large fire while they sing songs. They let it burn all night then in the morning they go back to Mandir for a service then throw colored powder on each other to celebrate good triumphing over evil. Traditionally people wear white so by the end of the day they’re all sort of purple. I joined up with a group from a local Mandir and played in the streets with friends and strangers as we moved from house to house. In addition to all the colored powder, people bring squirt guns and throw buckets of water on each other! It’s very messy but a lot of fun! After playing with the group in the morning, I went home and cleaned up so we could go visit some families we know. We got tons of delicious food (it’s Guyanese custom to feed anyone that comes by your home) and had a lovely time celebrating with friends. We then went to a local store that was having a program and watched dancing, beautiful singing, and craziness in the crowd. They put extra stain in the color this year so people (and their clothes) were rather permanently died purple. In fact, the parking lot where they had the program is still purple! It was a nice holiday though and I especially enjoyed the family aspect of it this year. As an outsider, it’s so special to be welcomed into people’s homes and share their traditions. I can’t wait to play again next year!NVGB3240

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Me sharing out colors! You wipe a little color on your new friend then give them a hug! Happy Phagwah!
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I had color in my ears for several days but it was all fun for Sabiena and I!

Carnival

Last week I took the most incredible vacation to Trinidad for Carnival! For those of you who don’t know carnival, its similar to Marti Gras and celebrated on Fat Tuesday. I went with a group of 10 volunteers and we all enjoyed to opportunity to destress and relax in on such a beautiful island.

We stayed in a big house in Point Fortin which is about two hours south of the capital, Port of Spain. Point Fortin is a lovely little community with big lawns, a great beach, and all the essentials. Because we rented a house, we were able to do our own cooking and indulge in some favorite American meals. One of the best parts of the trip was just walking around the town and doing nothing at the beach. As a young white woman, I stand out in Guyana and get a lot of unwanted attention, so it was a pleasant change to have some anonymity.

Our first big event was J’ouvert. It has a really interesting history you can check out here. It’s a giant street party/parade that welcomes in Carnival. It started at 4am on Monday and continued through the morning. We signed up to join a band (which is the way to do it if you’re considering going) which provided costumes, soca music, drinks, breakfast, and security. (If you’re wondering what soca music is here are some of my favorites from j’ouvet this year! HelloFast WineCatching Feelings) We started with a giant paint fight and danced into the morning!

On Tuesday we ventured back up to Port of Spain to see the big Carnival parade. It was spectacular! We met up with some other volunteers and enjoyed the spectacle of elaborate costumes, music, and street food. It wasn’t completely obvious by just watching the parade but each group tells part of the history of Trinidad, so by watching the whole thing you get a sense of Trinidad’s story. It was definitely the most fun history lesson I’ve ever had!

I cannot highly enough recommend visiting Trinidad for Carnival! Everyone we met was helpful and welcoming, all the festivities were so fun, and it was relatively inexpensive to do things! I was surprised by how developed the country is and hope to go back and visit Tobago sometime soon! Now I’m back at work in Guyana where things are going well and I look forward to all the other adventures this year will bring!

Giving Thanks

With the ringing in of the new year, I’ve been reflecting on 2017. I’ve been in Guyana for 1 year almost exactly, and I have so many people to thank for that accomplishment. I was home for Christmas which gave me some helpful perspective on my life here. By and large I’m really happy here, and I’ve been taking January to really soak in the joys of living here and the quintessential wonders of Guyana. Today I want to thank a few of the many people that make my life here both possible and truly amazing!

I first have to start with all the other Peace Corps Volunteers serving with me. We have a really unique bond that is so important to me. There’s something about moving to a new country and embarking on a life changing adventure that forever bonds a group. I experience things here that are impossible to explain to friends at home, but my American background means that I comprehend those experiences differently than Guyanese. Other volunteers are some of the few people who can relate to my struggles and successes, and I’m so thankful for all the times they’ve been on the other end of a phone call or a much needed hug. They’ve become my family. I’ve created some of the deepest, most honest, and most cherished friendships I can ever hope to hold. I spend so much time thinking about how my community sees me and being careful to represent the US well, so when I get to hang out with another volunteer all of the normal pleasantries fall and I’m just who I am without reservations.  I wouldn’t be here without their conversations, hugs, hilarious stories, support, and love. Thanks PCG!!My cohort Guy30!

I also wouldn’t be here without all the incredible staff we have working in Georgetown and DC. We have a whole army of people to make sure that I can be effective at my site. I have a doctor or nurse on call 24/7 in case I get sick, I literally trust my life to our safety and security officer, our admin team takes care of all the financial craziness to make sure I get my living allowance on time every month, and we have a huge programming team working to make sure I have the resources and knowledge to actually do my job in the field. Though volunteers and staff don’t always see eye to eye, I don’t think they often get thanked for their hard work and I’d like to take a moment to do that. A trip to the office always includes a good laugh, a few hugs, and encouragement–and that I’m always thankful for!Volunteers and staff at our field day last week

I maybe would have starved to death without my host families… For that alone they’re deserving of the biggest thanks! It’s uncommon for volunteers here to live with host families for the full two years, but I just can’t imagine my life without them! I was blessed to live with Auntie Meno during my 10 weeks of training and I try to visit her on Saturdays still. She always has a smile on her face, a place of delicious food for me, a big hug, and so much love. I so treasure her! The family I live with now makes sure I never feel lonely in our lively home, they’re always willing to give advice about a project or issue, they sing Bob Marley with me as I play ukulele, they feed me (and my cat!), they cheer for my success, they take my clothes off the line before it rains, they’ve taught me how to fit in, they’ve explained Guyanese culture in the height of my confusion, and so much more. They’re no longer my host family. They’re my family. I couldn’t ever thank them enough for that.Auntie Meno, Sabiena, and I at the host family appreciation event

Dartmouth Village is deserving of a huge shout out! When I came back from vacation it was so wonderful to have people come up and ask how I was doing because they hadn’t seen me around for a while. I love the steady stream of ‘Good Mornin’ I hear on my walk to work, and the little conversations I have with people during the day. In sum, people are really nice to me–especially my counterparts. The health center staff welcomed me from the first day, and the teachers I work will have been supportive of all my projects. I enjoy the work I do here, but the relationships I’ve built with the people I work with are what I really treasure. Thanks to all of them for not making Dartmouth my ‘site’, but my home.Ms. Cindy is the amazing teacher I work with in grade 7My counterpart Nurse Lashana and her family at Ezron’s 5th birthday party

Are you feeling left out Mom? Well here’s some gratitude for you–and the rest of the family! I’m so lucky to live in an are with good reception and because of that I’m able to call home most days. When leaving home I was most anxious about being disconnected from the people that are most important to me, so thankfully that hasn’t been an issue! I love that I can catch one of my parents on the phone when I’m having a hard day or call my sister when I need some teaching advice. The little ‘Love you’ texts from my brother always brighten my day, and a rare facetime with the whole family is a highlight of my week. I don’t think I could have lived here for a year if my family had told me to come home every time I called. It means so much to me that they’ve encouraged me to embark on this journey even though it means they don’t get to see me. I am who I am because of them and I can’t wait for them to see this incredible place I now call home. Love you all!Celebrating family and good food while I was home

All of the people who went out of their way to see me while I was home get an extra special thanks! It was so uplifting to see the friends I’ve been missing here and hearing about all the adventures you’ve been on the past year! I’m also really thankful to everyone reading this blog! I love sharing bits of my Guyanese life and think it’s more important now than ever to learn about different places and the things people there are doing. I’ve learned so much here and hope to pass on some of the best lessons! Thanks for joining me in this journey!Rachelle and I getting ready for the Polar Plunge! I’m sorry I don’t have more pictures of all the friends I caught up with-I guess we were too busy having fun!

And finally, to all tax paying Americans… Most Guyanese don’t quite understand how Peace Corps is funded and neither do many Americans. But I’m here to thank every tax paying American for funding my life here! It’s easy to get caught up in ALL the things your tax dollars do, but a very very small bit of that goes to funding my life here. I obviously think the work we’re doing in Guyana is really important (it’s why I’m still here) which is why I think it’s important to thank you and keep you posted about the cool ways your dollars are changing the world! The current administration is cutting a lot of foreign aid and Peace Corps budget specifically, and many Americans don’t even know what the Peace Corps does anymore. I think the more we share about volunteers experiences the bigger their impact becomes and the more relevant the organization grows to be. Thanks for your interest in my Peace Corps journey, and I encourage you to visit https://www.peacecorps.gov/returned-volunteers/awards/blog-it-home/ for more blogs written around the world!

Love always,

Carly

The Little Things

I had a conversation with my sister about how I do laundry and she said that it was illuminating to hear how that little part of my life works! So… in that fashion here are some little descriptors of random pieces of my life.

Starting with laundry!

I’m very lucky to live in a house with a washing machine but my weekly washing always seems to be more complicated than it should be. I usually do laundry once per week and it takes me 2-3 hours. I start by dragging the machine outside (it’s not too heavy but awkwardly big) and place it under the water pipe in the yard. I rinse out the machine then let it start to fill up with water. While it’s filling, I go on a hunt for the extension cord (four of us live in the house and seem to put it in a different location every time we use it, so it’s a bit of an adventure to locate it). Once located, I plug the cord into our inverter in the kitchen (the house is wired 240 but the machine runs on 110) and run it outside to the machine. I put some soap powder in the machine (after locating that too) and throw in my clothes. I usually end up doing two loads and finally learned to separate my darks and whites after my host family learned I don’t in the US and was horrified! Once the machine is full of water, I turn it on and wait the 15 minutes for it to spin around. During this time I usually end up washing out my clothes hamper or hand washing delicates. After the washing has finished, I drain out the machine and then fill it up again with clean water to rinse. I let it run for another 5ish minutes. Once the cloths have been washed they get transferred to the other side of the machine which spin dries them for 5 minutes (I’m obsessed with this step because it makes your clothes dry so much faster and it gets out some remaining soap so they’re not so stiff when they dry). Somewhere during this process, I go on a mission to collect as many clothes pins as I can find scattered around the house. No matter how many clothes pins we buy it seems like I can never find enough to hang all my clothes! Anyway, clothes pins in hand, I hang all my clothes on the line to dry in the hot sun (hopefully killing all the bacteria and fungus that like to live in them). I always seem to get soaked during the process but once this is all completed I give myself a big high five and move on with my day! I honestly hate doing laundry but it’s the greatest feeling to have it all done for the week. I give major props to the volunteers hand washing and to all the Guyanese women washing for all their kids!

How to take a bucket bath:

When I first got to Guyana the idea of a bucket bath seemed really weird and kinda scary. Turns out it’s pretty great and super easy! My family gets water piped into the house but usually the pressure in the pipes isn’t enough in the morning to make the shower work upstairs (it works in the afternoon when not so many people in the village are using water though). We also get our water shut off when the power goes out, so I bucket bath fairly often. We always have a 5-gallon bucket of water in the shower just in case it’s not coming upstairs (because hauling water up from downstairs is not super fun). To bathe, you just use a little bowl to scoop water and throw on yourself. Once you’re all wet, soap up then repeat to rise.

I enjoy it because the water is usually pretty cold and I’m always hot. We don’t have hot water (it’s really uncommon to have that in your home here) but I rarely miss it with the hot climate. It also makes me feel good about conserving water (I had no guilt about the 20-minute shower I took when I was home for Christmas!). It’s not uncommon for little water frogs to hang out with me in the shower—or scare me when I find them chillin on the back of my shampoo bottle! They’re harmless but I try to avoid them.

Cleaning:

I don’t do a lot of the cleaning in our house (thanks Tanza!) but it’s a big task in Guyana. Most houses aren’t sealed (meaning there’s a hole between the top of the wall and the roof to allow better airflow) so dust and dirt and bugs and birds and lizards etc. all get in. Coming from the US where we clean twice a month, I was amazed that some women sweep their houses every day and mop every other day. At the health center, our cleaner sweeps twice a day and I’m always amazed by how much dirt she collects. In addition to these little daily cleaning tasks, people deep clean their homes pretty often. It’s tradition to deep clean for New Years, and my family washed all our curtains and rugs, painted walls, swept, mopped, dusted, and sanitized the whole house. We have little lizards that like to climb on the inside of the roof and their poop gets on everything, so in addition to the dirt you have to clean up after those guys. I suppose it’s because we live in such a tropical environment, but things accumulate spider webs and dirt and stains faster than I could have ever imagined. The moral of the story is that you really have to stay on top of house cleaning, and again I have to state my amazement at all the housework that women in my community do.You can see a gap between the wall and roof in my health center. It keeps things cool but let’s in lots of birds!

Sleeping:

Nearly everyone in my community sleeps with a bed net to keep out the mosquitos. My net is especially awesome because it’s really big (I don’t feel so claustrophobic inside) and it’s treated with insecticide to kill bugs if they do get inside. I hang out in my bed way more here than I did in the US because it’s so nice to get some relief from the bugs. I finally got Kora (my cat) to sleep with me at night so I get some extra cuddles these days. I always sleep with a fan running but it’s been cool enough to use a sheet most nights recently. I remember being pretty hot at night when I first came, but I’ve adjusted to the climate better now and really enjoy the cool evenings. What I struggled to get used to was the noise when it rains at night. We have tin roofs, so when it rains hard the noise can be deafening! Luckily I’m a heavy sleeper, and these days I rarely wake up if it starts raining.

Walkin to work:

My health center is only a 10 minute walk away, so I get to enjoy a nice walk every day. At first, it seemed really strange to me to use an umbrella to shade me from the sun while walking, but it really does help to stay cool and avoid sunburn. I recently bought a new umbrella with puppies and kittens emblazoned on it, and it just makes me laugh how acceptable it is for an adult to carry it! It’s customary to say ‘Good Morning’ to everyone I pass on the way to work, and I enjoy the little exchanges I have on my way. Walking through the village is a highlight of my days, and always a great way to start the day.