Tuesday, March 17, 2009

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.

1 comment:

Dan said...

you should totally go into the bush. but the water sanitation sounds pretty sweet too.