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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.