Finding the Groove in Now

It has been over 6 months since I left Salt Lake City, and as I move into the 2nd half of my first year away, I am finally starting to come to terms with the fact that I live here.  It’s very difficult to describe how the first 6 months were being rationalized in my mind, but the feeling that resulted is that I was just on an extended, odd, somewhat sadomasochistic, self-discovery vacation.  This feeling would obviously not be sustainable, and over the last month or so I have worked to find my groove, and to see if there is a way I can make the remaining year and a half happen.

Pumpkin carving with the neighbors
Pumpkin carving with the neighbors

In order for living here to work, I knew I had to start developing relationships with more locals.  This really isn’t the hardest thing to do, as the Guyanese people I’ve met are generally very friendly and hospitable, and happy to hang out and chat almost any time.  As I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, aka my apartment, I have been spending more time with Guyanese neighbors, friends, and kids from all over.  As I began to meet more people in my neighborhood, I decided it would be fun to have a pumpkin carving night.  Halloween is not a thing in Guyana – so this would be a new experience for them (and they loved it!) Stuff like this has significantly helped in my adjustment here, and I am so thankful for the great people I’ve met so far.  The only down side to this, is that stepping too far out ends up costing money – and based on what the Peace Corps gives us each month, I guess they just want us to meet friends on our same street.  Luckily, some of my favorite people to hang out with do live just a few doors down…so I can hang out with them while saving to meet up with the other friends I’ve met who live farther away.

Possibly the most rewarding part of my experience so far has been working with the kids.  This came as a surprise to me, as I’ve only ever worked with adults, and I initially felt like a fish out of water being around lots of kids.  But as time has gone on, I’ve found my time with kids to be one of the most mutually beneficial and rewarding ways to spend it.  I have been working with grades 5 and 6, focusing on life skills such as self-esteem, goal setting, and positive decision making.

Grade these guys!
Grade 6…love these guys!

These sessions are some of the best days of my week, and the life skills focus is something I hope to work into future projects down the road.  Some volunteers and I have also been interacting with kids at the local community center for “game days” – literally just playing games with them and having fun.  Although this can be somewhat exhausting at times, it’s also a joy be there.

Work at the health center is still not very well defined, and I am not sure that it ever will be.  I know I am able to provide help and health education during the mornings of our busy clinics, but these are only a few times a week, and over by noon.  Luckily I have a great Counterpart at the health center, who encourages me to go and find other opportunities to help around the area.  As such I have been getting involved in work with other local groups such as the Candle in the Wind HIV Support Group, Region 3 Health and Wellness Club, and NAPS (National AIDS Program Secretariat).  Our Health and Wellness Club just assisted at an outreach for World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14, providing blood-sugar, BP, and BMI testing, along with additional information on diabetes management and nutrition.  As a member of the Peace Corps HIV Taskforce, we are also working towards our HIV “Stomping Out Stigma” day camps being held throughout Guyana for World Aids Day next month.  It’s an odd situation – there is a lot to do here, but then there are hours – days – weeks that it just feels like there’s nothing to do, or at least that nothing is getting done.

On my health front I am doing much better.  I continue to have a bitter hate for mosquitos (2 have bit me since I’ve been typing this), and the heat is still a lot to handle most the time.

Fishing with the Neighbors, and catching some sun!
Fishing with the Neighbors, and catching some sun!

However, I am actually finally sporting a sun tan (maybe burn) after going out with my neighbors fishing today – aside from the health issues had earlier, I had lost any tan I once had back home…time to work at getting some of that back.  🙂

Reconnect...wasn't ALL work and no play, but there was work!
Reconnect…wasn’t ALL work and no play, but there was work!

All of the volunteers had a great time at our reconnect conference the last week of October.  We were spoiled with AC rooms, good meals, fast internet, and each other.

Scrabble pieces for Halloween - was awesome!
Scrabble pieces for Halloween – was awesome!

Christmas has officially started in Guyana (it started in October), and I am not sure how spending the holidays away from home will be.  Being around my family and friends during this time of the year was always the best part of the year for me, so I am mentally bracing for a wave of homesickness.  Fortunately most of our Peace Corps family will be getting together for Thanksgiving, and the Guyanese friends and families I’ve met here are sure to provide plenty of Christmas cheer!

So I guess that is it for now…I’m living in Guyana, more and more each day, and sometimes I can’t even really believe it.  Some mornings I am wake up and smile, others I wake up and laugh – wondering really what in the hell I am doing, or how I even got, here in some small village on the bank of a South American river eating iguana (yes, that’s right!).

My first go at iguana, skin and all...surprisingly, it tastes just like chicken!
My first go at iguana, skin and all…surprisingly, it tastes just like chicken!

No matter what mood I wake up in though, it’s refreshing to know I am doing something that challenges myself – where I am constantly being forced to face my fears, anxieties, self-doubts, motivations, uncertainties, and plans – then take a deep breath and relax in the fact that I am just here, and right Now is good, and that any worries about not-Now will have to wait until “just now.”

Play park bridge - taking down the old to make way for the new!
Play park bridge – taking down the old to make way for the new!

Coming Up:

  • Play Park Renovation!  We are working to raise money and support to renovate the play park in my village.  We have already begun dismantling the old bridge, and have new boards on the way to replace it.  Then we need to level the grounds, bring in sand, and refurbish the equipment.
  • World AIDS Day Camps – in consideration of World AIDS day, volunteers will be facilitating 8 day camps focusing on sessions to address HIV transmission, prevention, and stigma awareness.
  • Life Skills lesson books – I am working on creating short illustrated stories/poems, with class discussions built in, to help facilitate lessons on life skills for primary school students.  The one currently in the works is for self-esteem, hopefully more to come.
  • Christmas!  For any friends and family that may want to send holiday packages 🙂 …along with holiday goodies – I would love any card, board, or other type games that would be fun to play with kids.  Art/School supplies would be helpful too, or random little gifts neighborhood kids may like for Christmas.  If you could send some cold weather, that would also be amazing!

…and a BIG THANK YOU for everyone who’s sent a package or two already – they truly have made all the difference in the world!

Boat ride at reconnect
Boat ride at reconnect