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.