Saturday, October 24, 2009

Coming to America

Although I did not write this here, I am currently sitting in an air conditioned sports bar using their wireless internet drinking a cold beer. Cheers.

Originally I thought it would be interesting to spend two years out of the States without returning. Things have changed, namely my older brother Tim is getting married, so I am returning to the States early December. Yet, this is not the only change, I now think that it will be interesting to return to the States for some time and then eventually returning back here to Bartica. A older wise British friend who has been here for six years remarked in my less than eloquent paraphrase that, “it is hard to see how much you have really changed until you return home”. Unfortunately for me this means returning in the dead of a New York winter, which will be shocking enough after finally getting used to the hellish heat here. Nevertheless, I have been making a mental checklist of things I want to do, see, eat, etc.

Things here in Bartica have changed a little, the romance period is over and now I have my occasional feuds with her inconveniences and what not. One thing I am still in love with is my house, although even she tends to nag me sometimes. Namely, a temperamental toilet, an incredible amount of ants (I don’t even have to sweep, I rely on ants), and as recent as yesterday something went wrong with my TV.

As far as work is concerned I have given up on trying to figure out a “new” path and have accepted my job for what it is. So, I have started setting up the hydroponics greenhouse and doing after school programs for the dorm students. Unlike the rest of Bartica, which is relatively privileged, these students are shipped in from the hinterlands in order to go to high school. Their living situation is dismal, besides school these children are locked inside their compound with nothing to do. As far as I have observed even on weekends these children never do anything, they just run around the compound bored. I have stopped asking how their weekends were because the uniform response is always bad. So, it is nice to see them having fun playing football, cricket, volleyball or anything else that I can manage without a budget.

There has been a recent exodus of expats. Not necessarily going back to where they came but just simply leaving Bartica. And I’ve come to realize how important they have been in the months I’ve been here. I, however, haven’t left Bartica since July, and when you live in a town of 15,000 you really start to have small town syndrome. The same people, places, food, etc. On the other hand it has enabled me to form stronger bonds with the people here, and help with learning Guyanese. Even just a week by myself in Bartica without talking with white people, I see myself becoming more Guyanese. Hell, I’m struggling now to use proper English. My grammar is horrendous now, so I must apologize for a lack of it.

Poker has recently become popular in my circle of friends and it is a good supplemental income. Although, if (or when) I win I am expected to buy drinks for everybody. At least it is fun.

This will probably be my last post before I come back (dec. 4-21), and I am sure I will have a lot more to say when I return back here to Bartica. Cheers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Some Maths

Warning: This was written in haste in an internet café.

I noticed that the month of September has passed without my writing something, so rest assured this will certainly not happen for the month of October. This is probably due to the fact that the novelty of new things always comes to an end. And although I will not say that the end has been reached. I will say that things which used to be novel are now commonplace expected. I think I could even say that I would find things more novel back in the States now than I would find them in Bartica. Regardless of all this blabber, I still am enjoying myself and always looking for the new and the novel.

Some things have changed with my day to day living, probably the most important is my new apartment. I think the increase in price (2.4 times more) serves as an appropriate representation of how much better my new apartment is. Thus, my new apartment is 2.4 times better than my old apartment. I have mentioned this apartment before in previous blogs, but now it has become a reality. So to reiterate, this apartment has floors, counters and a bathroom made completely out of ceramic tiles. It has water that runs twenty four hours a day, an improvement that I believe I can say that this is 2.4 times more than my previous house (about 10 hours a day). But some things can not be quantified, their value is beyond or transcends the world of numbers. For example, I now have a beautiful patio (albeit it is on the first floor), an indoor toilet, and TV. Everybody in Guyana seems to have the same TV, moreover, everybody in Guyana seems to have the same problem, it barely works. Yet, mine does work and I also am the proud recipient of cable TV. Our cable consists of about 35 channels, which is infinitely more than my previous apartment (a unique property of zero). I get BBC, CNN, and even Al Jezeera, I can watch news with my morning coffee, which makes it 2.4 times better (and the fact that I also inherited a coffee maker). I also get about five movie channels, and a local feed of CBS and NBC from Atlanta (I’m not sure why this is, but I will ask my friend the cable guy who grew up in New York). Continuing on, I’d say that my bed is 2.4 times better than my last, and that the temperature in the apartment is 2.4 times cooler. What is more, when my curry decides to leave my body at three in the morning I do not have to go outside, I do not have to carry a flashlight, and best of all I can flush. And believe me when I say that all of these things amount to 2.4 more hours of sleep. In general this house makes me 2.4 times happier.

Now it can be said that “things” making me happier is a bit superficial, or even worse some may consider it very American. But, after living with unnecessary and extremely irritating inconveniences for a half a year, one learns that there is nothing wrong with things. There is nothing wrong with loving things. I love my coffee maker. I love my TV. I love my toilet. My bed. Every single one of my easy to clean and cool ceramic tiles. Obviously, one can put forth the slippery slope argument, that the love of things is a never ending spiral. That my love for my 21” TV will soon become my longing for a 25” TV. And this is true. However, I will say that coming from near the bottom of the “things” spectrum (I by no means want to belittle my fellow volunteers in the bush, who are happy to just be alive), will give my a lifelong perspective on things. At least I’d like to think so. Granted, I just bought a new pair of sunglasses that are, quite ironically too, about 2.4 times the price of a normal pair. I just couldn’t resist.

More soon. I’ve been eating extremely well, dare I say 2.4 times better. So well, that I’ve started exercising again, but not 2.4 times more.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting Old

While some PC volunteers may tell you that life is hard, that money is scarce, that food is monotonous, or that they are bored, I will not. The situation here in Bartica is unique, and after talking to the other volunteers around the country I would feel only guilt if I were to say any of these things. My last few weeks or I guess now month and a half have been full of celebration and general merrymaking, and from the looks what is to come this doesn’t seem to have an end anytime soon. This does not mean that life here has it’s disadvantages, because there are, I’m only trying to say that it is quite hard not to have a good time here in Bartica.

Generally, this is due to a few reasons, first Bartica is a rich town, there is more money here per capita than any where else in the country. Its life force is gold, if somebody has money in Bartica that is because they are making it off gold, whether directly or indirectly. Meaning, some people mine the gold and make lots of money, some people support the gold mining industry (transportation, cooks, supplies etc.) and make even more money, and then some people operate the gold mines and make the most money. Regardless, everybody seems to be making money. I don’t know if I’ve stated this before in a previous blog, but the price of gold has nearly quadrupled in a matter of a few years. As a consequence, there is a bit of a building boom, all over town there are various buildings, houses, even some infrastructure being built here in this small town of 15,000. And comparatively speaking with the rest of the country, these are all done with a bit of style. I have a two story house and a beer garden/grocery store being built right across the street from my house, both of which are being built quite quickly.

Secondly, Bartica has an excellent expat community. I believe I’ve already mentioned the older British VSO couple, who are still as excellent and generous as always. Actually, we just celebrated the male half’s birthday a couple of weeks ago by renting out an old colonial slave house complete with in ground pool. It was a lovely weekend. In addition, there is also a Filipino VSO (although she is leaving in a week), and two other expats who are not volunteers that live up the river. One is British and the other is America, both are retired and both like to enjoy themselves, so I enjoy myself with them as much as possible. I just now received word that the Brit is now a Captain, as he has successfully passed his boat license test. Probably because my age is about a third of most of the foreigners here, I often hear, “with age comes wisdom”, and to an extent this is true, they are smart and keep my mind working.

Thirdly, is the convenience of Bartica. Because Bartica is a nice grid everything that one could possibly need is within walking distance. This means a football field size market with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat is only six blocks away. This also means that there is Chinese, Brazilian, Creolese or meat on stick also within a six block radius. Within three blocks there are about five drinking establishments. And right across the street there is a convenience store type shop, with cold drinks, snacks or even pencils. Not being a slave to one’s car or taxis is liberating, and I suppose healthy too, because I walk everywhere.

Nevertheless, there are disadvantages, first and foremost this country is hot. We are now in the hottest months of the year and even the Guyanese are complaining about the heat (these are people who get cold when it drops below 80). I find it hard to walk more than three blocks without soaking myself with sweat. I even carry a handkerchief now to wipe the sweat from my brow. When I am in my house I never wear a shirt, actually any opportunity not to wear clothes I take. One frustrating part of Guyanese etiquette is that you must wear pants in administrative buildings and even some bars. One relief is taking showers, which are refreshingly cold and usually done a couple times a day.

In an effort not to jinx myself, I will simply say that I think I will be getting a new house relatively soon. 24 hr water, cable TV, all ceramic tile, a proper stove and oven. Also, good news is that there are now USB “modems” that can hook up to the web anywhere there is a phone signal, it’s not fast, but it’s cheap and convenient. I should be getting one soon.

I killed a duck yesterday, it was kind of gross and pretty labor intensive. With some assistance I held down the live duck and took a kitchen and cut off its head. I had a bit of difficulty getting through the neck bone, but when the head finally did come off, blood squirted everywhere. After cutting off the head I had to hold down the body because it was having some after death seizures, I’m not sure of the proper name. Regardless, that was gross too. Then came the plucking, which involves dunking the duck in boiling water to loosen the feathers and then pulling them out. This is just tedious. Finally, you have to gut the duck (which I opted not to do) and pull out all the various guts, and poop. All in all one four lbs duck took almost an hour to prepare. I am going to roast it on Sunday for a going away party.

I finally became sick for the first time down here, my best guess is some sort of flu. I had heat strokes, chills, couldn’t hold on to food and was just generally ill. It thankfully left after a few days and I am back to normal now, but it was pretty unpleasant being in the heat and being sick.

A general thanks for all birthday wishes no matter how they were wished. My birthday was alright, it could have been better and it could have been worse. I suppose the best part was that I was at some beach resort for a conference, so it was nice to have cocktails overlooking the water. Yet, it would have been nice if there was more celebration. Although, someone did surprise me with cupcake type things. Regardless, I am now 23 and feeling older, but I am still the second youngest PCV.

Hopefully, my next blog will have some job updates (I’m pretty sure I’d get in trouble if I said anything as of yet). Suffice to say that my current job is getting the OK on a new job and there is a lot more red tape than I expected.

Farewell, hope you enjoyed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mr. Bartica

Some time has passed since my last significant blog, so I will try to regurgitate my last few weeks to whoever reads this. During our first PC reunion (also known as PDM, I’m still not sure what it stands for) since training, which has been two months, I had a small epiphany, that is, the place I feel most comfortable now is Bartica. I know where to eat, where to drink, and who has what. Being in Georgetown, the capital, was stressful, not only because our hotel was on the outskirts of town (thank you PC), but also because everything was foreign. I ended up spending lots of money because of the simple fact that I didn’t know where the deals were. One funny episode was when I excited a bunch of poor volunteers with a beer promotion, I was told that one could obtain five ice cold Banks Premiums (a nice hoppyish lager) for $1000 ($5US), but soon found out that it was considerably more. I don’t know who was more upset, probably me, but regardless I received a decent amount of insults and various other things people do to make another person feel bad. In Bartica, I know exactly where this wonderful promotion is (thank you Banks DIH), and I know that it runs every day, not just every Friday. Such is life.

As far as life here in Bartica, things are happening and other things are not. Without divulging too much information (I’m still curious as to what exactly I can write) I am in the housing market. I had a very nice apartment set up, PC approved it, and then the door was shut. So I am still looking, however, real estate in Bartica is not easy because of the influx of Brazilians (although I don’t mind them for other reasons) both price and availability are a problem.

I am also in the process of trying to figure out what exactly I’m supposed to be doing here. Besides the organization (suffice to say I’m the only employee) that I work for, I have been exploring working with the Agricultural Department here in Region Seven. They are trying to start a fish farming (can’t seem to escape them) program at the farming station here in Bartica. So, seeing that this is a skill that I actually have I am trying to figure out what kind of relationship and how much I can get involved. I’ve probably divulged too much already. But life has been chaotic between my housing situation, my job situation and just living in a new town. I enjoy my down time.

Even though Bartica is now my home, I am getting that itch once again known as wanderlust. I took a mini vacation yesterday in my hammock smoking a Cuban (thank you Cuban Doctors), and listening to salsa with my shirt off. I imagined myself in Havana on a hot summer afternoon (the heat didn’t take much imagination) waiting until the sun went down and the night started. Unfortunately, my night never did start because there seem to be a lack of Salsa clubs here in Bartica. Although, going to Georgetown was a nice break, it was far too stressful for what I would consider a vacation. Most of the time was spent listening to people speak about stuff, and getting up every now and then to say something of my own. Nevertheless, I should be heading out to the Essequibo Coast (where I spent two months training) at some point next month, for how long and for what I am not sure. Details are dangerous. It should be fun though.

I do have to mention a couple happenings from Town. The first I have to be discreet, so I will leave you with I was a bit lucky this past week, and was able to indulge a little more than usual (all in pre-flop on an 8, 9 off suit may not sound smart, but it worked out to my favor, he was on tilt). With my second story I can entertain you with a few more details. While having a few beers with some of my Guy 21 (my batch of green volunteers) cohorts, I was suddenly scooped up by some of the Guy 19ers who have been here for two years. Like the States, Guyana is mourning the death of the pop icon Michael Jackson. It has actually been quite hard to go a day without hearing something of his. All the same, it was Michael Jackson night and I wanted to dance. Unbeknownst to me, was that in Town dance clubs have dress codes and my cut off jean shorts were not cutting it (I have never encountered this problem in Bartica). The other guy with me, who happens to be my roommate and of a bit skinnier frame, switched his shorts with one of the girls that we were with. However, I being of a bit larger frame, was not so lucky, yet the bouncer felt sorry for me. He must of known that I would eventually take over the dance floor and show the Guyanese that I, like Michael Jackson, am American and that this special bond counts for something. Nevertheless, the bouncer was kind enough to loan a pair of his own pants. Being a bouncer this man was also of a larger frame, he was actually a large middle aged black man who from the looks of things had had his fair share of beer. To my surprise when he came back, I was not only unable to button his pants, I could not even zipper them up all the way. After a few inquiries about whether these pants were actually his, and his reassurance that they were, I collected what was left of my ego and headed up to the club. I think it only took about ten minutes of dancing to reassure myself of how great I truly am.

As every human being should, I like celebrations, and fortunately for me there are a few scheduled in the next couple of weeks. Not this weekend but the next, is the summer Regatta, a smaller version on the one during Easter, but a Regatta nonetheless. So I am sure that I will be joining the revelry including musical acts, boat racing, and as much beer as my PC stipend will buy (mother rest assured that that is nothing much). Soon after that, I believe the next weekend actually, is the birthday of the male half of the VSO couple here. The plan is to rent a beautiful (and it truly is by any standards) old slave house, complete with in ground pool, lovely wooden decks and plenty of place to sleep. Knowing him, and the various friends that we have it should be a lovely weekend. I think it’s his sixtieth, but I’m not entirely sure, he’s in England right now. It’s always nice to have a schedule and things to look forward to, I can’t really be spontaneous as I would like (thank you PC), so it is nice knowing that fun will be had for the next few weeks.

And as always, I can not refrain from talking about food. Amongst my many regrets, one stands out, namely, I did not get my chow fun and dumpling fix while I was in Town. Besides this though, I have been eating quite well. The past few weekends have usually included nice Sunday lunches, of which I have been a part of preparing. The first, I stuck to my repertoire and made a nice tomato sauce and spaghetti, and although I felt confident pleasing the Western tongues I was not sure how the Guyanese would react. They liked it, gave me compliments and I was asked to cook for the next lunch. This was a bit more of a challenge because these Guyanese I was cooking for this time were more Guyanese. So I prepared one of their own dishes, chicken curry, of which I have only watched being cooked, and never had cooked myself. It was well received and it made me feel good, my only regret was not having enough curry powder. Regardless, other dishes that I have been experimenting with have been Boulanger Choka, a sort of mashed up cooked eggplant with tomatoes, onions and peppers usually eaten with roti, which I also experimented with. The next lunch planned is a roast duck, another dish I have no experience with, although I think I have an idea of how to do it.

Until next time. I am still alive.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Send me some love, or some money

Everything continues down here, it is still hot, I still wash my clothes with my hands, and everything else is just a little more labor intensive than it has to be. Unique though, for this past week, has been the departure of three more volunteers from my batch. Two of whom were quite close to me, both in location and as friends, so that was a little difficult and continues to be difficult to deal with. I can’t really disclose too much about why they left and other various things. What I can say though, is that I enjoyed their company and it will be weird readjusting my weekends without their visits.

The unique happening was my first relatively serious medical condition. I thought I had stubbed my toes a couple of weeks ago as a few of them were swollen, so I took some IBprofen and what not. The swelling went down pretty slow, and then kind of blistered, when I popped the blister, black liquid came out. At this point I do have to mention that there were black dots in the middle of the wounds. In any case, the swelling continued to go down, but I still had the black dots. An acquaintance of mine asked about them, and asked how I got them, I said I wasn’t sure, and that I thought I stubbed my toe. She said that they were fleas. I asked around and asked the Cuban doctors who I know here and sure enough they said fleas too. So, last night I took tweezers and just kinda dug them out. After more black liquid and white puss stuff, I had three sizeable holes. I’m keeping them clean and bandaged to prevent any infection. Never thought I’d get fleas though, the local name is “jiggies”.

There’s really nothing more out of the ordinary than these two shorts blips. But I will also include a book list as I have been asked by a few people now if I wanted things shipped down.

Book list


Neal Stephenson (minus Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon)
John R. Searle
Ray Kurzweil
Anthony Bourdain (minus Kitchen Confidential and a collection of essays, I forget the name, I’m not even sure he’s published more)
Peter Hessler (minus Between two rivers)
Hunter S. Thompson (minus Hell’s Angels)
Oliver Sacks


Philosophy of Math
Any Peace Corps Memoirs
Harmonica book
Travel Literature (especially S. America)


Mind and Cognition (published by Blackwell I think, it’s a anthology of essays, I think the latest one is 2007 or 2008)
Any Magazines, I kind of love them down here, there my connection to the States



I should be writing some more stuff soon, I have just made some moves, which I can't disclose just yet, but if they turn out successful I should have something to write about in a week or two.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A few weeks of "underemployment", it's not terrible

It has been almost a month to date since I have arrived to my site here in Bartica on the Essequibo River, which happens to be the second widest river in S. America. I’m not entirely sure of this, a quick google search may prove me wrong, but it does take about 45 minutes to cross it at the mouth. Nevertheless, based on my conversations with other Peace Corps volunteers I think I have landed one of the best sites in Guyana. And although I have been busy, work itself has been slow going. Most of my time has been spent meeting people (largely because of the other volunteers here who have introduced me into their circles), learning Bartica, getting used to the very labor intensive life of living in the third world and then finally figuring out my job here. This is what PC tells us to do for our first three months, so I’m right on schedule.

Looking at my last post, I should set things straight, as in which expectations have been met and which have been left wanting. As far as Bartica is concerned most of my expectations have been met, it is in fact on a river (three if you want to be precise), it has a more Caribbean feel than other places I have been in Guyana, and it is a gateway into the interior. This means that most transport around here either requires a boat or a bus going down one of the few roads that lead into the interior, it’s not cheap getting out of Bartica. Despite Guyana’s reputation for having racial problems (which it indeed does elsewhere in the country), Bartica is an oasis of tolerance, most Barticians are “all mixed up”. For example one of the women that I work with has Amerindian, Indian, Black, Dutch, and Chinese blood. And this tolerance is something that Barticians pride themselves on.

In Bartica proper everything is very walkable, contrary to my last post Bartica is actually a 7 x 9 grid with suburban size blocks. Within a five to ten minute walk, I have a ‘beach’ (the jersey shore could never prepare you for the cleanliness of the beaches here), a few Brazilians bbq’s ($5 US all you can eat meat, and it’s damn good), and then Front St., which has a couple of wharves and then all your various Guyanese shops, restaurants and drinking establishments. One of the wharves is quite big and includes a few bars, which actually became a venue that hosted Guyanese reggae superstar Natural Black a couple weekends ago. It was quite a show, including all the merrymaking and carousing that concerts usually call for, and was still in full swing when I decided to leave at 4:30 AM. The official number of persons here is 15,000, which by American standards makes this quite a small town, and I am quickly learning just how small it is.

My living conditions did turn up to be another PC surprise. The house that we had received pictures of with the nice outdoor porch and open first level is directly across the street from my actual house. So every morning as I drink my instant coffee with powdered milk, I look at the house that I was told was going to be mine. My actual house turned out to be a little more dilapidated, but endearing nonetheless. It is, like the house across the street, a second story home made entirely out of wood. It is sixty years old (built by my landlady’s father) and is in a certain state of disrepair. The only thing analogous to American concepts that I can think of is a old wooden house down in the South on a bayou. It’s floors are all a little crooked, there are cracks in between the planks of wood that makes our floor giving us a nice view down to the first floor, and there is a leaky zinc roof over our heads that is quite high. It makes sweeping easy because you just sweep the dirt in between the cracks to join the dirt floor on the first floor. For the first couple of weeks we had to share an outhouse with our landlady, it was quite annoying because we had to walk to back of the property passed our landlady’s house. In addition, after a couple weeks of use by about nine persons it became filled with a pretty unbearable stench. The $1 US spent on incense was well worth the investment. However, the situation has changed and we now have our own bathroom (their term for shower) and washroom (their term for the toilet). It is still on the first floor so we have to leave our house to get there, but it is right at the bottom of the stairs. The best part about it though, is that we now have a shower head, my first in the country, usually it is just a PVC elbow that comes out in a stream, instead of a spray. And finally, the rumor that there was wifi here turned out not to be the case. Although, next month one of the telecoms here (GT&T, the other is Digicell) is supposed to start selling wifi cards that can get online wherever there is phone reception. It’s supposed to only be $12.50 US a month, so this is a source of excitement.

One unexpected surprise about Bartica, is that there is a VSO (I’m not even sure what it stand for, but they are a NGO with main offices in London) volunteer couple here. They are an older British couple and they have really gave us a thorough introduction to the town and especially it’s members. This has sped up the integration process tenfold, and I am quite grateful they are here. The group of Barticians that they have introduced us to has deemed me Supreme Leader Kim, after the current dictator of North Korea. That is OK though, because we also have a Bin Laden and a Robert Mugabe. Nicknames are a fundamental part of life here, and they usually are not terribly creative. A fat man would be called Fat Man, likewise a tall man would be called Tall Man, there are others that are more creative, like my neighbor Chicken. But I’ve found that they don’t even know the origins of most of these names. Nevertheless, I have become known Kim because we are from relatively the same ethnic type, nothing more really.

As I mentioned earlier I haven’t been working too much, this is mainly due to the nature of my organization. The organization that I work for was basically on a hiatus since the last batch of volunteers who were here. Thus, I have to start from the beginning, minus the supplies left and the network of local volunteers that worked when the last PC was here. We have a few computers, a ping pong table, a large room, and an outdoor hydroponics greenhouse. So, the past few weeks have consisted of trying to get the volunteer network back, cleaning the building and trying to get the greenhouse going. I think once things get going I will be a little more busy, the time off has been nice though, allowing me to explore Bartica and really settle into my house. My roommate works with the Dept. of Ed., so I have been joining them on some trips to schools in the area, usually we have to take a boat because of all the rivers here.

I do have an address now if anyone wants to send anything. Just a few notes in that regard; of course any food items have to be non-perishable, I would also caution against anything too fragile, and then lastly electronics of any form (from mp3 players to DVDs to etc.) can be costly because I have to pay an import duty on them. So, if you plan on sending electronics of any form let me know ( and so I can figure out the duty or come up with shipping strategies. Otherwise, any magazines, food, books, cooking supplies (spices!) or anything would be appreciated. I’m going to put up a wish list of books soon, once I get some time to explore Amazon. I can’t put my address up here, but if you email me I will gladly give it to you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Going to a land between two rivers

Hooray! I did end up getting the site that I wanted and I will be leaving this coming Monday, although I think I will be posting this Monday. Regardless, I am happy, excited, anxious, etc. The last couple of weeks in training have been rather slow, so we’ve had a lot of down time. In the Peace Corps this means lots of reading, random movies (my host father loves Van Damne), and just sitting around talking about anything you can think up.

Although I don’t think I’m allowed to disclose the name of my organization, I believe I can say it is in Bartica. A nice hilly little town situation at the top of the Essequibo river delta that everybody I meet has something good to say about. It is known as a gateway into the interior, which means that it is a town that people come to coming out or going in to the interior. Consequently, Bartica is full of miners, loggers, and Brazilians (I’m not sure why Brazilians, but they have BBQ so they’re all right with me). Despite being an area of transition, I have been told that Barticans have a strong sense of community (it’s really only a 4 x 12 block grid). I have also been told or read that it hosts the Easter Regatta, a weekend of revelry, jolliness and high speed boat racing. Unfortunately I have just missed it.

As far as my living situation, again I can only speak of rumors (you never really know in the Peace Corps, things change very quickly, I wouldn’t be too surprised if I end up somewhere completely different because my house burned down or Bartica got ravaged by some natural disaster). For example, at first I was told that my house was completely furnished, including a bed, a mattress, a table and some chairs. Two days ago I found out that I have nothing in my house, so I will be sleeping in a hammock until I can find somewhere to buy a mattress. I am going to attempt to make my own bed frame. For now though, I know that I will be living with someone else, a male of 25 coming from the southern region of California. I also know that I will be living in a second story home that has an open first floor, which is nice to take in the breeze during the days. It has a balcony too! (some dreams do come true in the corps) However, the biggest rumor and most anticipated is that I might have wireless internet coming from a ******* near my house. Peace Corps Light.

As I said last post I am going to be working for a youth development organization that was set up by a previous volunteer. I have been told that they have a few computers with internet, various board games, and most exciting of all a ping pong table. So I figure that a lot of my time will be spent playing ping pong, board games or football (soccer to you Americans) with kids. Not a bad job to say the least, yet we will see.

Otherwise, family life is good. The kids were gone for a few days but they have returned and so has the noise. I still eat ungodly amounts of starch and curry. One of the dogs on my family compound just had (or dropped) a family of five with three survivors, they are incredibly small and blind for three weeks. I might take one when I come back for a five day wedding sometime in August. We’ve had a few “going away parties”, one really nice one a couple days ago that attracted quite a crowd. Without divulging to much information I will say that I have been having fun, and consequently my wallet grows thin.

I will leave you with a list.

What makes Tyler happy:

The price of Rum (world class for US$5, less than world class for US$2.50)

The amount of motorcycles

It’s the rainy season (a little bit cooler)

My site placement

Being able to cook my own food in two days

Not having class everyday

My soon to be porch

My mustache

Being in the Peace Corps

What makes Tyler unhappy:

The price of beer (won’t be found for under a US$1)

The fact that if I ride a motorcycle and PC finds out I will be sent home immediately

It’s still unbelievably hot

Packing, again

Leaving my host mom’s always amazing curry

Going to work everyday

Leaving the porch I have now, and the possibility of having no porch in the future

What girls think of mustaches

The Peace Corps

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I should know soon.

Peace Corps has been keeping me busy, this four day Easter weekend was a welcome break. Prior to this I had 11 days straight of Peace Corps, most of the trainees here were on edge and ready for a little down time. Everything still remains the same, I am still in training although I only have two weeks left and both are short weeks. Although you can never really know down here, I should be hearing where my post is this coming Friday. Unlike my prior blogs, and I guess this is a excellent example of my indecisiveness, I opted to take a more urban post. If I get my first choice, I will be working at an “NGO” (I’m not entirely sure what the exact status is) working with children. It was actually set up by a prior volunteer and is just a general youth development organization. I pretty much told Peace Corps in my interviews that I wanted to play with children and would rather not end up in a health clinic or hospital (where most of the health posts are). Still, this is all guesswork, I won’t know for sure until this coming Friday, but from the people I’ve talked to it sounds like I’ll get the post. Bartica is one of the larger cities (I think it’s the third or the fourth), however large down here is around 20,000. I’ll give more information once I know if I’m there.

Yesterday, a decent number of the trainees went to a nice little lake in the area. The highlight of my day however, was not the lake but rather when the local chinee man showed up and brought chow fun. I had told him a few weeks ago at the restaurant that I wanted some and he said he’d brought it for me. There’s a lot of chinee restaurants down here, actually they are probably the most popular type of restaurant down here. The only downside is that they only sell fried rice and chow mein. I still have yet to try the “fried wantons”, which I assume are some sort of dumpling. Continuing with food, I learned how to make a curry today, it’s really not that hard but involves a lot of spices. My host father was on a delivery, so with the Muslim away we ate pork. They pressure cook almost everything down here so the meat is usually very tender (it is also usually bone ridden, fatty, in small quantities and extremely fresh, I actually plucked a chicken a couple weeks ago). I also am going to a jandi (sp?) tomorrow, which is a Hindu celebration of some sort, but we get seven curry quintessence of dining down here. I’m starting to notice that my food paragraph is getting long, I guess some things don’t change.

I brought back the mustache, it’s a Peace Corps Guyana Male Health Volunteer tradition, and I’ve learned throughout life the peer pressure is not worth fighting. My host aunt said I looked like a real American. She also continues to introduce (or drag) young giggling women to me at a rate of about 2 or 3 a week.

Other PC news, we had our first trainee go home and our first trainee end up in the hospital. The girl who left had some tough living situations. The girl who got sick spent a week in the capital with dengue fever, fun fun. I have yet to contract anything serious, but my allergies have kicked in and cause mild discomfort.

I’m starting to understand most of what’s being said to me, but there are still some people that I don’t have a first clue of what they are saying. Some examples, “meh nah know” (I don’t know) or “dem breeze be high today, bai” (it is very windy today man). Or if you want to emphasize something you don’t say very, but just repeat the adjective “dem bai is bad bad bad” (that boy is very bad). I find myself unconsciously speaking it sometimes.

And although I won’t post this today, I should say happy birthday Tim, I would call if I could.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Training is almost done, that's good news

Training is a little arduous, and I am very happy to say that I am half way done. The remaining four weeks will go a little faster, and probably the biggest news of all we get our "site packets" (information about the different sites that we may go to around the country) this coming Friday. As for history, I just finished my Volunteer site visit with a girl right outside the capital. And although I wanted to go Bush for my visit it was nice to be near the capital with all her conveniences. To name a few, iced coffee, cheeseburger, pizza hut, and some delicious fried shrimp (or prawns, as they call normal sized shrimp here), and apart from food some other errands that I needed to get done.

Other news, I've heard (rumors are the thing to talk about here, both in the PC and amongst the Guyanese) that there will be a few sites in the Capital. This makes my site decision making a little more tricky. If I could get a spot in Town that would be ideal, however I think these will be much sought after and other people will probably fight harder. We will see. Otherwise if I'm not in town I think I would rather go more remote, bush. 

Last week I had to do a talk at a health clinic to about 20 pregnant woman. I was the only man in the room and the topic was breast feeding. I tried to keep it humorous, always making fun of the fact that I was talking about something that I have and will never be able experience first hand. Most jokes went over well. However, when I tried to explain the convenience of breast feeding, and how it is easy to lose bottles and forget to bring them, I made the joke that it is pretty "difficult to lose your breast". Nobody laughed, except my supervisor in the back. Can't win them all.

Another humorous bit, my host family is constantly trying to set me up with any woman in sight. The other day I came down the stairs around 6AM and there was a young Indian girl there who was introduced to me as "Cheese". My host father quickly pointed out that I could be called bread and that bread goes on top of cheese. An awkward morning to say the least.

The PC held some award ceremony for a children's art competition, and I went with my volunteer. I got to meet the American Ambassador and the Guyanese Ministry of Health. It was a reminder of how small the country is, it is really hard to fathom a country the size of the county I grew up in. Everything is a little more accessible. Also, the ceremony had a delicious spread of fried goodness.

As for the future I have four weeks left in training, I head back to my training site tomorrow, after a "bush cook" (essentially anytime you cook over an over fire, think picnic). We will continue training, be picking our sites soon, and then move into them within a month's time. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chiney Boy!

Although these two posts are being posted on the same day, I wrote them at very different times. The first I wrote on the third of the month and this one just yesterday. Internet is hard to come by, there are only two real options, one that the Peace Corps set up and then another that is relatively expensive. Regardless, nothing much has changed, I am still in the same routine of class, coming home early and going to sleep early. I am starting to learn the area a bit more, but travel is expensive, so I spend most of my days around where I live. Classes are still long, and there seems to be a growing resentment amongst the trainees for the long days. I still eat ungodly portions of carbs, but I am running now to balance it out and also to jumpstart my digestive system that direly wants some fiber.

As for the future, I have pretty much decided I want to be in the bush. It will have it challenges and its drawbacks, but I don't think I could justify living around the coast for two years. Life would be easier, but it wouldn't provide the newness that I hope will keep me going for the next two years. As I've mentioned before one of the main reasons I joined was to learn another language. And although right now the local dialect, Creolese, sounds like anotherlanguage it is merely a Carribean form of English. Next week we will be staying with current volunteers at sites around the country. I am hoping they send me bush so I can see what I probably will be getting myself into.

On a lighter note, I have finally been identified as "chiney", the cover all word for anything remotely oriental here. Other terms that are used for orientals, are "Jackie Chen" and "Bruce Lee". I have yet to be called either, but there is a korean girl here that has gotten both. I have to say that I am a little jealous.

I don't want to write too much, but that's most of what I have been experiencing. I am well, and enjoying my stay here thus far.

A Couple of Weeks Late

This was written on the third of the month. Sorry for the delay. Enjoy. And I didn't make it private yet, so I'm hoping this is OK.

Usually by now two weeks means a couple of countries past, a handful of stories and something to say about the culture. However, being with the Peace Corps, makes everything run a little slower than this. Training is not fun, actually it reminds me a lot of grade school. We go to class from 8:30 to 4:30 (they have no problem making us stay late either) and then have to be home by dark. In addition to the rule of being home by dark, taxis stop around 6:00 here, so it is impossible to go anywhere after 6:00. Thus, I have gotten into a schedule of catching a couple beers after school at the local "Snackette" with some of my classmates all the while worrying about catching a taxi around 6:00. I eat, talk with my family and Megan (a trainee who lives with my host aunt) and usually retire to my room around 9:00 only to wake up at 5:30 or so and do it again. Even more, I bring bag lunches to school and have very curious parents (comparatively speaking though mine are pretty easygoing). It is very different from my usual travel experiences.

Besides the long weeks in class, and they are very painful classes, there are a lot of advantages to my situation. First, I am living with a very Indo-Guyanese family. It's kind of like a family compound, altogether there are eleven family members in four different houses spanning three generations. Most of the day the women (Patsi my host mother, Pam her sister, Samantha Patsi's daughter in law, and one more daughter in law) do domestic chores and hang around the "first floor" (it's not walled in, my house is lifted) talking and taking care of the kids, there are four (Nyron 1, Tyrone 5, Crystal 8, Javid 12). The men (Farouk my host father, Kem his son, Imran his other son) are gone most of the day driving trucks to and from the capital and elsewhere. The duties of the family are very much divided along gender lines.
The diet here is mainly rice or roti (an Indian flatbread) with some sort of meat (usually chicken or fish). Although the food is not too varied (gotta love curry) and lacking in vegetables, it is almost always very good. I've been told that my mother is one of the better cooks. They also have a table that always has some sort of fresh fruits on it, I've already eaten about a half dozen new kinds.

I am about a five hour journey from the capital, Georgetown (Bus, boat, Bus) in an area known as the Essequibo Coast. Becuase of "safety concerns" I am not allowed to be more specific. It is dotted with small towns every couple of miles that usually have a gas station with a small convenience store and a weekly market in some towns for produce. In between the towns are medium sized rice fields, which are the main source of income here on the coast. Only about a mile off the coast the jungle starts and never really ends. 90% of the population lives on the coast. Think rice fields and palm trees. It is a very relaxing area, people are super friendly and welcoming. Although there is a very gossipy culture here, you really have to be careful what you say and where you go. Women aren't allowed in bars (or Rum Shops as their known here) unless they want to be known as a prostitute. Most locals say they prefer it to the crime ridden Georgetown. A coastal vibe without the beach (they are more landfills, than areas to relax). Personally though, the thing about Guyana that I like most is the complete absence of tourism and really American culture in general. There are a lot of connections to America (family and business), but I can go through a whole day feeling like I truly am somewhere else. Most people here think that New York makes up the majority of America.

As for the Peace Corps, the big rumor going around is that most of us are being sent into the bush. I'd say more than half of us though do not want to be sent in. And I'd also say that more than half of us wouldn't make it in the bush. I am still deciding, although I am leaning towards going. Depending on how deep they send me, this could mean no electricity, water, phone or internet, and no way out for months at a time. That would be super bush. Most sites do have at least one or two of those amenities. Compared to the others here I have a lot fewer connections back to the States, so I think I would fair better in a isolated spot. Actually the assignment I really want is with the Red Cross doing water sanitation, because they are constantly going from village to village in the bush. We will see.

So for now, all is well, I take two showers a day. Our group of 33 (known as Guy 21) is getting along fairly well, and we have 7 more weeks of traning.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It really is hot

The equator is a line that means the closer you get the hotter it gets. The jungle is a place that makes everything wet and humid. The equator and jungle together equal sweat. It's hot here, sweat is just another part of life. However, after a unusually cold winter up in Jersey it's kind of nice at the moment.

Right now we are staying in a hotel in Georgetown and soon will move to our homestays, where we will be for the next two months. After that we get our posts, where we will be for the next two years. The days have been long, we are in meetings pretty much all day, where they tell us how to be safe, culturally sensitive and of course adhere to the increasingly long list of rules that the peace corps lays out.

Although I can not say too much now, (I have to read up on what I can and can not say publicly) there have been some rumors that are not too pleasant. When I find out the exact rules on what I can say, I will let you guys know. Regardless, know that I am well and increasingly excited and anxious.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Down to the Wire

I would like to think that this will be my last post before I leave, reiterating how anxiety has set in, how simple packing decisions become hour long mental debates only adding to my anxiety. All of it is unnecessary, I really don't know what my living situation will be like, or various other things that only being in Guyana will tell. Yet, I can't help but try and guess.

And again, now more so than before, is the stress of the present. With only one week left I have come down to my Lasts. Sometimes I feel like a convect on death row, doing all the things that I'll be deprived of in the next two years, which for me is close enough to death, perhaps that's a little too morbid, but two years is a long time. Seeing people, getting my last staples of Jersey dining (pizza, bagels, etc.), and trying to do as many things first world as possible. It's a lot to think about. Sometimes this stress turns to apathy, why put so much value on something that is going to be nonexistent in my next two years.

On more positive note, excitement is starting to become something more realistic. I watched a BBC documentary that claimed Guyana has "the largest unspoiled Rain Forest left on the planet", which is quite a statement. If you would like to see it the two episodes are on youtube, search "Guyana lost land of the jaguar". So, one week left until I am in the jungle with 25 ft anacondas, the largest spiders in the world, and more mosquitos than I would care to think about.

If I haven't seen you and said some sort of goodbye, please try and contact me, I would love to say goodbye.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's even more official; my wait begins

After a frustrating battle over x-rays and "cavities", the Peace Corps Dental Office has finally deemed my teeth fit to survive the rigors of the third world. Which also means that I am completely qualified, it is more official than the last official invitation. And even though we will be leaving from LaGuardia on the 23rd of February, I have to go down to Philadelphia 22nd to handle paperwork and meet my fellow volunteers for the first time. So over the next month I will occasionally freak out remembering that I will not be back in the States for quite some time. And for those of you who know me, I am bound to forget some detail that evolves into a larger quandry and then somehow I get lucky and it all resolves itself. I have been on my fair share of international trips and have not died, yet the idea of packing up for a couple of years is quite a different monster altogether. I am already worrying about the books I want to bring. Knowing now that books abroad can be one's only and often best escapism. Regardless, I am trying to begin with little expectation and mindset of adaptability. Darwin would be proud.

Still I have important decisions to make, the most daunting right now is whether I should bring my laptop. Something that is very dear to me and that I would love to have, but I still don't know where my ultimate placement will be. I could be in the "Interior", which doesn't have electricity. I did read that other people from my group are bringing laptops (Macbooks even), so this provided some encouragement to bring my own. And so the dilemma goes...

Then there is the other side, my life back in the States. I would hate to not see some people before I leave and with only a month this could be difficult. If you haven't seen me, please do, it would make me happy. Also, my financial issues, already I am at war with my loan company over whether the Peace Corps warrants a deferment of my student loans. I refuse to lose this war. For now, I am still in Bloomfield, still very poor, and working the same job I did when I was 15 years old. Guyana here I come.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Waiting Ends

For most of you who have seen me in the past few months we've inevitably talked of the Peace Corps and my waiting to hear from them, and how my assignment was changed, and so forth. Alas, finally I have received an assignment and it looks like this time I will actually be leaving on February 22nd for the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. It is a small English speaking country (around 750,000 people) in between Venezuela and Brazil that identifies more with the Caribbean than with the rest of South America. And although I can't say it was exactly what I was expecting, I think that it will be an interesting experience nonetheless. The assignment that I was given, which I suspect was because I am CPR and First Aid certified, is to be a Community Health Education Promoter. And from my understanding, this means I will be working closely with either a NGO or government clinic to promote good health practices.

Regardless, I am excited and anxious and have many loose ends to tie before I leave the States.