“Somewhere over the Rainbow”
It feels like I blinked a couple times and then suddenly I’ve been here at site for a month and a half. Time flies when you’re having fun, I suppose? I’m settling in to the new pace of life here on the river. I liken coming to Guyana and living on the coast as letting one’s foot off the American accelerator and then coming to the river as driving head-first into a brick wall at 60 miles per hour, with how much the pace of life slows (especially when one is on an island and getting one’s hands on a boat to leave said island is harder than pulling a hippopotamus’ teeth). A lot of time for self-reflection (which can be a good or bad thing depending on how much one likes oneself on a given day), and a lot of time just learning how to exist in a different place and in a different culture. And a lot of time trying one’s dead-level hardest to catch a non-existent breeze in the hammock.
Sunset from the hammock is pretty nice though
Here’s a little of what life is like here in riverine Guyana, with some photos courtesy of my Guyanese aunt Faye, who came to visit from the capital and documented all my activities (no judging any basicness on my part, please):
Electricity: Nope-ish, but enough workarounds to get by. There’s no wired electricity, so no air conditioning, fans, light switches, or anywhere to plug something in whenever your heart desires. We have a gasoline generator at my house which runs for a few hours most nights (to charge things and to watch Lifetime movies, which for some reason still indeterminate to me are all the rage in Guyana). My school has solar panels, but only providing enough current to run a few lights and plug in a couple small things. Thankfully I don’t miss the AC too much, as there’s a nice breeze every now and then (and a shop selling cool soda when there isn’t), and it even gets cool-ish some nights (by cool-ish I mean lower-to-mid 70s, but it’s still a blessing compared to the daytime temps and humidity).
Toilet: Yes. I’m lucky enough to have an indoor toilet instead of a pit latrine, which means I share the facilites with only a few bugs and frogs instead of A LOT of bugs and frogs. The only downside is I have to end up going outside when I use the toilet anyways, because:
Running Water: If by running water you mean a creek, copious amounts. If you mean coming out of a tap, nope. Our house has a tank for rainwater collection that we use for drinking/bathing/cooking/cleaning/clothes washing/etc. There’s also a small pond out back that serves the same purpose in lieu of rainwater.
A dashing Peace Corps Volunteer fetching rainwater
Bathing consists of bucket showers (spooning water out of a bucket onto your soapy body in an attempt to get somewhat clean) and clothes washing consists of big buckets and lots of hand scrubbing (and clothes that still smell a little funky at the end because I’m still getting the hang of it).
And that toilet? Have to go grab a bucket of pond water to pour in the tank each time you want to flush your doings.
Cell Service: Yes, but not great. 2G that’s good enough for texts and WhatsApp, verrrrrrrrrrrry slow for anything else. Forget about downloading anything big. But it does what it needs to do.
Great People: One of the highlights of my community is how kind and welcoming everyone here is. They’ve been host to a variety of Peace Corps (plus Project Trust and CUSO) volunteers in the past, so they’re somewhat used to American idiosyncracies (although I do still feel somewhat judged when I’m asked if the entire one liter soda I buy is for myself alone because yes, of course it is). Moving to a place and a culture so inherently different than anything in the states is not easy by any stretch (honestly it’s one of the most, if not the hardest thing I’ve ever done), but such a supportive host family and community is what makes it doable.
Me and Hyacinth, my host mom
Great Students: Are why I’m here. I’m currently in the primary school four or five days a week delivering the science curriculum to 75 students in Grades 3-6. The first day none of them would speak to me (probably because I’m a giant, scary American) but by day two the chorus of “Sir Adam, Sir Adam, Sir Adam” started from all directions and hasn’t subsided since.
Grade 4 Science Class
The level of educational attainment isn’t the same as it would be back in the states (I have some students who can barely copy words off the board), but harnessing the giant bundles of energy that they are is the reason I’m here. In addition to teaching science, I’m working with the Grade 5 girls to revamp and reopen the school library, and as you can see below, I may have taught a couple impromptu science-related art classes.
All in all, I’m living the dream down here. How many people can say their first job out of college is technically on a tropical island? (Even if the island is surrounded by flooded savanna instead of ocean.) Yeah, there are things I don’t have here, but I could’ve stayed in America if I really needed those things. All in all, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be right now. More to come just now on more goings-on down here– I have photos yet to post and exciting events such as Amerindian heritage day approaching.