You reach for the stars
In pursuit of something of new
You leave what you know
To experience something true
The new becomes the old
The stories are retold
No matter where you are
No matter what you do
When you are expecting something more
The answer lies in you
I woke up yesterday and couldn’t get out of bed. It could have been that my body was tired. I had been to the gym the day before, the first time back in 2 months. It could have been I knew I was working on stuff at home that day, with no rush to be anywhere early. Truly, however, I knew it was a something else holding me back that morning – perhaps confusion. I had given up the life I knew and took a brave step into the unknown. But there is a problem. The unknown is not so unknown anymore, and it doesn’t feel brave anymore – it feels a little like a story I’ve heard before. How can this be? If I can pick up my life, move to a different continent not knowing anyone, and still feel bored in a year’s time – what hope do I have in ever being satisfied? Confusion. I have everything I need here, and there is plenty for me to “do”. So why has the excitement fizzled? The truth is, whether I am sitting in meetings in Salt Lake City or on a minibus in Georgetown – I am in charge of my own satisfaction. Peace Corps is a challenge – not only for the obvious physical and logistical ones – but for bigger introspective ones. As I approach the one year mark in Guyana (I really can’t believe it’s been a year!), one challenge is clear. I believe there are new stories to be part of and told all around us. My challenge is to get out of bed and stay present enough to see them now.
…A recap of some such stories are below, thanks for reading!
Camp BRO (Boys Redefining Ourselves)
In April I was able to help with Camp BRO, which was held on the Essequibo coast. Grade 6 boys were invited to a multi-day boys camp, filled with games, activities, and most importantly life skills sessions.
Sessions on gender norms/expectations, self-esteem, trust, decision making and goal setting were facilitated in-between cricket, kickball, and obstacle course competitions. It was great working with these boys, despite the sleeping conditions. Unfortunately, the dorm room I had to sleep in could have easily been on loan from hell. Yes, it was that hot. Yes, it was that filthy. Yes, I thought I had died as I woke in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat. You think you’re tough when you’ve been in Peace Corps for year, but all it takes is a few nights on a rotting mattress, with no fan, in a room infested with cockroaches to put you back in place! …and yes, helping these boys be better men was worth it all!
PEPFAR HIV & GSM Stigma/Discrimination Workshop
As part of the HIV Taskforce, we completed a multi-day PEPFAR funded workshop to address stigma & discrimination in health care settings. The workshop focused on providing a better understanding of gender and sexual minorities (GSM), whom are among the key populations living with HIV, with an emphasis on treating HIV & GSM patients with care. Nursing school students from New Amsterdam and Linden attended the interactive workshop, where they participated in activities that brought to light how both conscious and unconscious discrimination can affect these patients access to care, treatment, and testing.
The workshop included guest speakers from the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), and a discussion panel with participants from various NGO’s, providing greater context to the topics covered. By the end of the workshop, all students expressed deeper empathy and understanding of these issues and began forming action plans to bring this awareness back to their communities and colleagues! The workshop as at Spalshmins, which also provided us plenty of time to interact with the students after sessions…including everything from learning new games to a talent show!
Other Events and Happenings
Wakapoa Visit: A few of us went to visit some hinterland volunteers, living a few hours and boat rides away. It was great to see this part of the country and way of life. Life is pretty slow and easy going where I live, but my village seems like a metropolis compared to these villages. It highlights how different a volunteer’s Peace Corps experience can be, even within the same country.
The volunteer we stayed with did not have regular electricity or water – but they did have cell service! The cell company also provides a community charging station, where the village can go to charge their phones. Smart phones in places without running water and regular current…anyone else see a disconnect here?
Candle in the Wind Support Group: Beach Day! We were able to take the Candle in the Wind support group to Parika Beach. It was great to get out of the hospital setting and have some fun. We did some exercising on the beach, followed by a good amount of beach cricket.
Our unfamiliarity with cricket became obvious, especially at the point Jenni hit the ball and started running to a first base that wasn’t there! We eventually caught on, but decided to let them win anyway 😉
Easter: It’s a BIG holiday here. In Guyana it’s Easter Monday, so everyone has a four day weekend – from Good Friday to Easter Monday. Instead of Easter egg decorating and hunts, Guyanese fly kites – lots and lots of kites! There is also a Regatta speed boat race in Bartica, and a Rodeo down in Letham.
Lastly, but certainly not least, my neighboring village has an annual Easter Hat competition, which I got to take part in as a judge. My qualifications for judge on America’s Next Top Model are set!
Departure: Another one of my dearest friends in Peace Corps left in April to pursue her life in Spain. I am looking forward to visiting her, and am already missing her here. The longer we are here the harder it gets when a volunteer leaves, but friendships have been made that will last a lifetime. Love ya Ashley!
Guy27: If you recall, our group is Guy26, which can only mean one thing – the NEXT group of volunteers is coming! We are excited to have a new group join us here, and can’t believe we are now the “old group”. It seems like a lifetime ago, yet I can remember my first day in-country like it was yesterday.
Elections: The elections are May 11th here – and they are shaping up to be quite the event. If you have a few minutes, I recommend doing a google search on the upcoming Guyana elections. The current ruling party has been in power for 20+ years, and it appears there is momentum with the opposing party – so a change may be happening. We are all hoping for peaceful results, but precautions are being made to keep volunteers safe during this time. I should have a full update on the turnout by my next blog update!
Turning 32: I got to Guyana when I was 30, so if I’m turning 32 next month, this means my two years here is up soon, right?? 😉 I am really looking forward to this birthday because I will have some special visitors…
Family Visit: That’s right, my family is coming to Guyana! My parents and brother are braving their way to me in Guyana, and I am looking forward to showing them my life here. It has been way too long since I’ve seen them, and hope this visit will reenergize all of us. After some time here, we get to take off to Trinidad & Tobago for a much needed vacation. (hopefully to include air conditioning and hot water)
So I guess that’s it for now…
Peace, Love, and Happiness until next time!