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.