Month: May 2014

Getting Through

Getting Through

I’ve been waiting for what seems like hours just to get on.  When it finally comes, with some hesitation, I manage to board.  I’ve been on this before, but each time feels like the first.  I know it should be safe, but something tells me that this is not always so.  The speed at which we are going increases.  I close my eyes, only to open them again, finding myself head on with what could very well be my ultimate demise.  Will I make it?  Will I survive this?  So what if I do?  Tomorrow it will just happen all over again…

This is merely an everyday ride on a Guyanese minibus.

Our primary mode of transportation...
Our primary mode of transportation…
As you can see, we are headed towards "the light" every time we get in the bus ;)
As you can see, we are headed towards “the light” every time we get in the bus 😉

In reality, I have become pretty accustom to this daily adrenaline rush, and it has just been one of the many things becoming more and more familiar to us as we adapt to our new Guyanese lives.

Training by Fire

We are approximately midway through training, and have been in Guyana for one month.  Time is still a very hard concept to nail down.  Hours seem long, but days and weeks fly by.  During this month I’ve found myself doing things I never thought I would be doing.  From taking blood pressure manually, to testing blood sugar, to measuring stomachs and weighing babies, to teaching 6th grade classes – the moral of the training story is: Be Prepared.  Be prepared to do anything.  In the words of the Nurse/Midwife at our health center, “In Guyana, everyone does everything to get the job done.”  At the point I was dealing out prescription drugs to the health center patients, I realized this is probably true.  I also realized how important our Pre-Service Training has been in this sense.

Teaching a 6th grade class...was awesome!
Teaching a 6th grade class…was awesome!
The Health Center staff...love these ladies!
The Health Center staff…love these ladies!

Aside from the various technical skills being acquired through training, I have also had the opportunity to see more of the place I am calling home for the next two years.  The capital, Georgetown, is a nice enough place complete with landmarks and Universities.

St. George's Cathedral - largest, oldest, wood building in the world!
St. George’s Cathedral – largest, oldest, wood building in the world!
Spaghetti.  Awesome.
Spaghetti. Awesome.

One thing I’ve been surprised with is the food.  My host family makes amazing food, and I have loved nearly every meal we’ve had.  My host Mom has not only mastered traditional Guyanese dishes, but also whips up great spaghetti and a homemade pizza that is worth writing home (blogging) about.

My favorite meal so far...typical American.
My favorite meal so far…typical American.

Reality

Training and getting about with our host families has kept us busy for the most part, leaving little time to think about what was left behind or what lies ahead.  This is not to say there has not been any time for those thoughts.  Although I am never really alone, I do feel lonely at times.  I have met some really fantastic people; volunteers, host families, and locals alike, who I guess hoped could fill the spots left empty from the friends and family back home.  This of course is not true.  Host families don’t replace your own family, and new friends can’t replace the old ones – these are great new additions to my life, but unable to stop the reality of being 4,000 plus miles from the people I love.

Some GUY26 friends who helped me bring in 31 with a bang :)
Some GUY26 friends who helped me bring in 31 with a bang 🙂
Some of my favorites: Ice cream, my volunteer host sister Emily, and Lindsey.
Some of my favorites: Ice cream, my volunteer host sister Emily, and Lindsey.

In the first month here, I have confirmed what I expected to be true.  This is not going to be easy.  Yet from the little time I’ve had in the health centers and schools so far, I can already see that our time here is needed and important.  There will be challenges to overcome, adjustments that must be made, and opportunities to learn from – but it will be worth it.   In Guyana, getting through (pronounced “tru”) is a question used for the ability to complete just about anything.  My host family is always asking me “Are you getting tru?”  Whether it be doing my laundry, preparing vegetables for dinner, packing my bag for lunch, calling home, doing homework, or catching a bus.  So far, the answer has always been yes – I am getting through.  Still, I understand that this is just the beginning of my experience and opportunity to serve – and with the support of family and friends, both old and new, I’m confident I will continue to get “tru” and complete the work that I came here to do.

Coming up:  In June we will be told exactly where in Guyana that opportunity lies for each of us.  We complete training and will be moved to our permanent sites during the first part of July.  Stay tuned!

Two Weeks In, Two Years to Go

Two Weeks In, Two Years to Go

It’s been two weeks since I left home, and I feel like I’ve had 2 months’ worth of experiences in that time. Waiting to board the flight to Guyana, I called my cell phone company to cancel my service. I have had the same cell phone number since I was 15 years old, and in just a moment’s time, the number was cancelled and the Chase attached to 801-599-9645 was gone. The feeling I had as I walked on to the plane, headed to a new country and unreachable by family and friends, can only be compared to a feeling I had when skydiving. I knew I was taking a risk, and that there was no turning back after taking this jump. I was a little scared, but felt alive.

Splashmin's Sunset
Splashmin’s Sunset
Volleyball Evenings
Volleyball Evenings
Game night
Game night
Training Room
Training Room

We arrived in Guyana at night. It was dark, hot, and humid. We were greeted by a very welcoming Peace Corps staff and rushed to our rooms where we would be for the next week. We woke up in the morning and got a better look at the place we had just moved to, and I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed. For the next 6 days we were at Splashmin’s resort. Our days were filled with training, eating, and games. As a side, I must say that the Peace Corps did a great job selecting the volunteers for this group. Out of 34 people in this group, I truly admire something in all 34 of them. We were secluded in a resort with AC in the rooms, hot showers, and sandy beaches. This was a nice start to living in Guyana, and allowed us to get to know each other quickly. However, at the end of six days we still hadn’t seen anything beyond Splashmin’s walls and could only imagine the country beyond those gates.

The Sea Wall
The Sea Wall

Host Family Placement

The transition from Splashmin’s resort to Host Family placement was abrupt. We did not know who our host family would be up until the point we were standing in front of them one afternoon. The Peace Corps then turned us over to them, and off we went. All 34 of us going in separate directions, with total strangers that we have been paired with to spend the next 9 weeks. Intense.

It was the first morning, in the host family’s house, in the first shower, that the “oh shit” moment first came. Not literally, of course (I actually have managed to avoid that part so far), but mentally. I was in a shower, in someone’s house I just met, and was not going “home” anytime soon. In fact, this is my home now. A few deep breaths and I was able to finish the shower and move on with my day. It really is best to think about things day by day now – thinking too far into the future…weeks, months, years, can become a bit overwhelming. I must say, however, when it comes to host families I couldn’t have been more fortunate.

Desiree with our dinner
Desiree with our dinner

 

My host Mom, Desiree, was thrilled to find out I was the volunteer staying with her. She said when she first saw me I looked like Jesus. Seeing as how she is a Pentecostal Christian, I am pretty sure the resemblance is playing in my favor. My host family is awesome, and I am pretty sure if there was to be a Real Housewives of Guyana, my host mom would be on it.  The major challenges I have been adjusting to so far are living in a house with no AC, sleeping under a mosquito net, and sharing the kitchen with bats and toads at times, BUT I do have a shower…which is more that I can say for some of the other volunteers.  Unfortunately the cool shower isn’t working at the moment, but I am told it will be fixed just now.

Host Family's Space Shuttle Shower
Host Family’s Space Shuttle Shower
Doing Laundry by hand...
Doing Laundry by hand…

“Just Now” is a Guyanese term for when something is about to happen. It could be 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 weeks, or 5 months. There is no such thing as “right now” in Guyana, and this is just one of the many things being drilled into us during the remaining 8 weeks of training. I still have a lot to learn about Guyana, the people, and what it is exactly that I will be doing here. We start our Health Center practicum this week, and I am sure a lot more of the pieces are going to start falling into place soon. The interesting part is that even once they do, everything is going to get shaken up again. This is really just the beginning of the journey, and we still have little idea of where within Guyana we will end up getting placed for the duration of our 2 year service. Come the beginning of July, the volunteers of GUY 26 will be placed and spread throughout the country, no longer able to rely on the comforts of training. We will be American citizens living in a Guyanese community, with the objective to integrate in, interact with, and improve the lives of our Guyanese neighbors. This is the challenge I signed up for, and will hopefully be ready to take on once training is over and the real service begins.

Supply Health Center
Supply Health Center
Peace Corps Training Center
Peace Corps Training Center
Here we go!
Here we go!