Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays

In truly the spirit of giving, I have decided to make a holiday post. And in the spirit of remorse I must apologize for my lapse in writing. First, I wish a Happy Holidays to all. It is a bit odd that it’s 90F out and also December, but rest assured that Guyanese have attempted to make me feel at home. Christmas lights have been put up, and my favorite is quickly becoming the icicle lights that never seem to melt in this heat.

Walking around today I’ve noticed that there are similarities between our two countries. The shops are beyond capacity, the traffic (there’s only about 15 roads in Bartica) is worse (it is quite funny to hear taxi drivers complain about traffic, when it really never lasts more than 30 seconds). So, despite the incredible heat it is starting to feel a lot like Christmas, which depending on your temperament is a good or bad thing.

I’ve finally gotten the computer lab up and running and my group of loyal after school children increases daily. A typical day I see about 40 children pass in and out of my doors. A good twenty stay for the whole time I am open. I try to keep the kids interested by keeping the atmosphere relaxed, and let the kids learn computers as I learned them, simply enjoying. Their progress though is undeniable. It’s more incidental learning yet, I see them developing the problem solving skills that only time spent on a computer can produce. Soon, I am hoping to hold adult classes, for which there is a high demand, and from which I am hoping to produce some income to help pay for maintenance costs. Again, I must thank all the donors who participated in the program, and I hope to have some more video footage of the completed lab up on youtube soon. Will get the word out when I have.

My cooking has shifted focus a bit, but not too much. I still eat a lot of beans, but I have been exploring other things. Lately, a friend of mine gave me a Basil plant, so I have been cooking a lot of Italian fare, including a stab at making my own pasta the other day. It was a success. My next experiment is going to be ravioli. Other than Italian, I have also been making a fare amount of Mexican, thanks to my roomates’ parents who kindly gave us a large amount of taco seasoning. I’ve become quite satisfied with my refried beans (from dry beans) and my tortillas (can’t use enough baking powder, and thin thin thin).

Although I have been working at it now for a few months (sometimes less consistent than I would like) I have been doing P90X in the mornings. It works better for me than running because unless you leave the house before 5:30 AM the sun will turn you into a pile of melted insides. So, in the comfort of my own home I try to do all the push ups and other exercises that the man on my computer screen tells me. I think I see results, but that could just be optimism, conversely this sentence could just be pessimism.

I did realize that it was a bit odd traveling to Barbados and never once going in the water. Especially coming from a country where there is no other color water besides brown or black. Nevertheless, I did enjoy seeing my family and playing some golf, which I discovered I have a certain knack for. We ate nice food, food I missed (baguettes, broccoli, parmesan cheese, provolone cheese, deli ham, salami, Tostitos and salsa, fresh milk, wine, romaine lettuce), food that I knew too well (most of the food in Guyana is from Trinidad, which is the supplier for most of the Caribbean). It was also interesting comparing the two Caribbean countries, Bajans see the Guyanese as cheap labor. One conversation went, “hey, where can I get a cheap beer?” “Guyana (in a disdainful tone)”. I was only too happy to return to Guyana.

Another happening in Bartica, is the return of the Bush boys. This means that all the people who work in the jungle are coming out for the holidays. And this means that they are looking to have a good time, and have more than enough money to do so. So, the past couple weeks have been seeing old friends and having a drink or two (bush boys treat). It may perhaps provide some after Peace Corps opportunities too.
And while they come out of the bush I am going to be in the Bush for Christmas, to go by my British friend. He’s been living here for about seven years now, and we’ve become good friends. It’ll be interesting having a Christmas in the middle of the jungle (literally, you cannot see a single sign of human civilization from his house, besides his house). It’s a bit of an English menu, Yorkshire pudding (still have yet to see what this is), Port, and roast potatoes; but, it includes a proper Butterball turkey, potatoes and stuffing so I am happy.

Again, Happy holidays to all, thanks for all your continued support and I will see all of you in the States soon enough.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


A big thank you to the American Soccer Team who made my month a bit more luxurious than most, and although they didn’t win, they did not lose by more than one goal. Hooray! It is soccer time down here, the Brazilians have all painted their shops green and yellow and talk is about the World Cup. As those of you on the East Coast know, the World Cup is on all day during the day, and with my flexible work schedule I have been watching most games.

Besides the World Cup fever, life has been good. As always I have been cooking, eating, drinking and generally enjoying a life of simplicity. Some people have gone, some people have come back, some people have just arrived, and some person seems to be sticking around for awhile. Among the volunteer network, there are two new Aussies in Bartica, so the white population has doubled. Regardless of comings and goings, time has really quickened its pace. It was quite a revelation the other day when I heard on the NY local news feed that summer is here. Without noticeable seasons, time really has a different character. Nonetheless, I will say that we are currently transitioning out of the rainy season so people here are experiencing a version of spring fever. Bartica has been lively.

Work continues to pick up, I have finally obtained the $4,000 US that was raised and have begun purchasing items. So, it has been good to go around and begin to transform a vision into something tangible. Yet, there have been some difficulties, mainly where to house the computers. Making something sustainable is difficult in a country like Guyana, and even more so in a town like Bartica. Thus, I am in the process of integrating my organization with another project that has been running for a solid six years, and which has promising prospects to run for another six. I really can’t say much more, but there have been bureaucratic battles because of this and because of this I’m beginning learning the art of diplomacy. On a more positive note, some price cuts and finagling have opened some money in my budget, and now I’m looking to buy a LCD projector.

Cheers. Brazil v. N. Korea in 15.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Video on Youtube from Work!!!!

First thanks for all your donations, help and support. And hopefully this will give you an idea of where and what I am doing. Enjoy!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beanie Man

Although I am not one to celebrate arbitrary landmarks, it has been a year since I’ve been at my site here in Bartica. And why not? Guyana is a country that celebrates three different sets of religious holidays, and also three different ethnicities’ holidays. So, I think that adding just one more to the mix won’t harm anyone.

Life here continues, nothing really new to note (no marriages, promotions, babies, near death incidents). I enjoy a simple life. I cook, I eat, I drink, I dance, I meet (and that is usually the order). And yet it still remains that my primary activity is learning. I’ve become a better cook, “eater”, dancer (in Caribbean terms), and generally a better conversationalist. Also, I must say that I have increasingly become a news junkie, I do have three news networks, namely BBC, al Jazeera, and CNN. Much thanks to my loving mother for rounding out my news appetite by faithfully sending down Economists. And I know it will please some, namely the Brits and my parents, that I have taken to drinking tea, minus my morning coffee. I’ve been averaging probably about five to seven cups a day.

Speaking of food, which is always a point of focus in my life, my diet has changed a bit. I’ve been eating a lot of beans, all sorts of beans, lentils, split peas, black eyed beans, red kidney beans, black beans, chick peas and perhaps a couple others. Although, that is most of the bean collection here. Also, I’ve started a healthy relationship with pumpkin. I really haven’t been eating any meat, for reasons of finance and convenience. The other difference is that I have tried my hand at baking lately, and have had some success making my own bread. The problem with bread down here is that it is all sweet, so I make my own bread minus sugar. I’m planning on making a loaf tonight to complement some lentil soup.

The rainy season is back, which means a few things. First, Guyana gets even more lazy. Rain for the Guyanese means you don’t leave the house, it is a perfectly acceptable excuse to not show up for work or any other engagement. So, I have reluctantly decided to assimilate. Second, it is a few degrees cooler, mostly due to the fact that there are actually clouds so the sun doesn’t burn a hole in your head or any other exposed limb. Finally, and of course there is always a negative aspect with me, it makes drying clothes a very strategic affair, it took me almost a week to dry my last wash.

On a more productive note, and I know people like to hear that, my grant is making progress. We’ve nearly reached half of the funds requested. My hope is to have the money by summer time so that I can have the computer lab up and running for a couple of summer classes and also be fully prepared for the coming school year this fall. I just completed a video promoting MYI, which I am going to be putting up on youtube. I am going to try and load it down here with the slow internet speeds, and if I fail, I will have to send a CD up to the States to have someone load it for me (volunteers?). I think you will enjoy it, at least you will be able to see where I spend my afternoons and some of the kids that I work with.

I suppose one new thing that I have not mentioned is that I have been making trips into the bush to visit my British friend. He does live in the middle of no where and it is a nice weekend retreat to go out and help him with his farm and the building of his “island”. He lives on the bank of the Mazaruni River, one of the largest in Guyana and also where a majority of mining is done. He also has a small (50 ft. x 50 ft.) island that I recently helped to develop a bit. For now it is just a patio that we hung hammocks on that you have to swim to, but there are plans to build a bridge or something so that you can reach without getting wet. And also a few things to spice up the island, namely a diving board and a rope swing. I plan to go out again soon.

I hope my english is still inteligble.

Friday, March 19, 2010

perhaps a bit bitter

First, I must apologize for not updating this blog in quite sometime, it may be because I don't have too much to write about. Second, this is just straight from my head to the blog here, so there is no proof reading here. I suppose my lack of updating is due to a lack of updates. And perhaps this is a good (assimilation) or a bad (nothingness) thing. I've learned to expect the unexpected, where their used to be a guilty pleasure sometimes now becomes a complacent defeat. My latest complacent defeat has been the theft of some personal belongings. There is no sign of breaking or entering and what they stole is quite curious. My only thought is at some point the door must have been left unlocked either during the day or while I was sleeping. Luckily, and indeed I am using it now, they did not steal my laptop, which for me would be the most obvious thing to steal. No, they stole my favorite traveling bag, cologne, four boxes of mac and cheese, my roommates bag, and a CD boom box. And I can not think of a better case of audacity than to steal my four kraft mac and cheese and leave the no name brand one there. So, no essentials really were stolen, but I am out of my favorite traveling bag, which has been with me for years and with whom I did have a special relationship.

On a more positive note, work has been more consistent and fulfilling. As some of you may have seen I have written a grant and am trying to raise money for more computers for my workplace. If you have any interest the URL is https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=504-010. I hope to be putting up a video of the center and the kids sooner than later, probably sometime mid April as I have a busy end of the month and beginning of April. Nevertheless, kids have been coming in a bit more steadily, some are learning to type, some are getting better at ping pong and generally we have fun afternoons. Currently, we have four computers, and my eventual hope is to get six more with the grant and start more formal classes. Such as a basic computing class, typing class, Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, etc. Also, we do have internet now up at the center, so I will be online more steadily.

That's all for now, I shall try and write with some more insight just now, but this is Guyana and that means nothing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Finally made it home

Finally made it home, at least as home as I have made it, but it does feel nice to be back in Bartica amongst what is now familiar. All in all I must say that going to the States for a couple weeks gave me the break I needed to have fresh eyes coming back. In other words I think my perspective on Bartica is now wealthier because of being in the states for awhile. Most of the trip went well, I saw most (sorry if you are not a part of that) of my friends, my brother got married, and I bought a bunch of goodies to bring back here. My only complaint is the fact that I arrived the same time as a cold front, and two snowstorms.

The most apparent part of my changed perspective is how much I have adapted to life down here, for better or for worse. For example, punctuality has no place down here, showing up late is just a non issue. And while this is no deep revelation, I just feel a lot more comfortable in a place where it’s completely fine showing up a couple hours late. In my vacation to the States I got stressed, ie. traffic, assholes, consumerism, rules, etc. I think it coincides with the whole lifestyle down here, the immediacy of the moment, the inattention towards the future. One of the parts of development work is behavior change, but to me this stinks of imperialism. It can be safely said that it is quite difficult to develop a country when it is perfectly acceptable to never be on time, but I do also believe that something will be lost if this is lost. Like most things there are both benefits and consequences, and I’m not entirely sure if the benefits outweigh the consequences in this case. Here is a culture that has virtually eliminated stress, and this is not solely because of the lack of tardiness, I just thought it a good example to highlight the differences between America and Guyana.

After weeks of meeting, greeting and general holiday merriment I got to take a couple days rest. I dearly needed some Tyler time, and now that I have had it, I have entered back into the world of living. When I arrived here in Guyana I was quickly thrown into things, which included two long delays, a lost bag and a massive amount of phone calls. Although it did land me a free morning in the Caribbean Air VIP lounge, complete with free food and an open bar. Soon after I was on the phone planning for the holiday house that I had been planning (it’s in Bartica) for the other Peace Corps Volunteers. My three days at the vacation house were a nice alternative to the usual grind and coldness of Christmas. Nothing much more to say on that.

Now that 2010 has started I have gone back to work and have begun setting up my workplace for the kids again. I did acquire (thank you mother) two old laptops, so now my computer total is four. Moreover, I picked up a bunch of software to load on these four computers, so hopefully my afternoons with the kids will be a little more formal and progress with their computer skills will be made. Soon, my grant will be approved and online. Basically, this is a grant through the Peace Corps Website in order to buy more computers for the building I am working. More on this soon. Also, in typical American fashion I have started exercising in this year of 2010. Not necessarily a New Year’s resolution, but just a convenient starting point after a transition in life. I have been good the first week so far, and I also have realized that I am in the worse shape of my life. I do have enough time on my hands, so it would be a shame for me not to take advantage of the opportunity. Thus, I am.
So, cheers, happy new year, and I will be advertising for my grant just now.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Belated Holiday Greetings

First, apologies for a lapse in my blogging, but a general Thanks and Belated Holiday Greetings to all, thank you for all the help, couches, and financial support. My trip to the states was enjoyable and refreshing. I will be posting something of significance soon.