The Fun That Was Peace Corps Guyana - Mark's Blog

Postings from just north of the equator. Let's see if training in CPR and First Aid prepares me to teach Health Education in a small, remote village in Guyana. I'm thinking... no. Read all about this ill advised decision! In addition, here is the required Peace Corps disclaimer: "The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps." So, please, don't confuse me with the White House Press Secretary.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November Thoughts

Well, I thought I'd do another post just because it has been so long. Obviously there hasn't been much Peace Corps news now that I'm in Washington DC. Let me just say, though, that DC is crawling with RPCVs. If you ever have that nagging feeling that you are special because you did Peace Corps and you want to get rid of that feeling, come to DC. I'll pretty much guarantee you'll run into a RPCV on the street who can anticipate all your stories. But that's actually okay - it's fun to hear how similar other countries are. And it keeps your ego in check.

Also, I wanted to post because I know it is getting to that time of year when PC sends out invitations for Guyana. And that, of course, leads to googling "Guyana" and finding this blog eventually. If that's you and you feel like trying to find a real live Peace Corps volunteer, I suggest playing on Facebook. There are a number of Peace Corps Guyana Facebook groups there that you can join. I would start by searching for "Guyana RPCVs" - from them you can find lots of good groups or whatever that will let you obsess and ask lots of questions that may or may not be answered. But remember, half the fun of PC is just showing up and going with the flow. I'm not going to say that the ability to do that is necessary, but it sure makes life a whole lot easier down there (anywhere, in fact).

The weather is hovering in the mid-thirties here and my body, after two years near the equator, is not happy. Almost makes me pine for the days of sweating through my shirt just when sitting. Ah... memories. And good luck to those of you about to start the fun down there. Enjoy your last holidays up here for a while.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Life in August

So I'm sure that everyone is dying to know what I've been up to since I've gotten back home in mid-June, right?  I mean, you all must just be breathless - what is Mark doing to give his life meaning now?  Has he had a nervous breakdown yet in a grocery store?  Or has he alienated all his friends by constantly comparing America to Guyana?

Well, I'm sorry to disappoint, but I haven't been involuntarily locked up for my own mental health or lost too many friends because of constant Guyana yapping.  I've actually been pretty much fine since I've come back.  Not only that, but I've slipped right back into "normal" American life, for better or worse.  Gotta go to the department store to buy something?  No problem; I won't freak out.  Make a run to Costco?  I can handle those massive tubs of mayo just as well now as I did before Peace Corps.  I guess what I'm saying is that I haven't had any real re-adjustment issues.  And that includes not needing to constantly talk about Guyana.  Sometimes I can hear myself start to ramble about life in Guyana if I'm not careful.  But I don't have an overwhelming urge to tell everyone I meet on the street what I've been doing for the past two years.

So I'm feeling pretty good.  I'm going to grad school this fall, so I've been able to just relax this summer and not worry about getting a job.  It's been fantastic.  I've seen lots of friends and family.  It's great to catch up with people and know that I wasn't completely forgotten.  I've also been in touch with my host family in Guyana.  They say that the newest Peace Corps volunteers in my old area get asked about me (i.e. "did you know Mark?").  I remember going through that when I first showed up.  Everyone assumes that you knew the previous volunteer (and sometimes that you are related to him or her).  It can be a bit oppressive at first, because the old volunteer can often seem like they walked on water by the way people can talk about them.  Let me assure you, it is not true.  But I will admit it is nice to finally be in that position, where I have a bit of a legacy, even if it is small (and exaggerated by most).  And I've heard that the greenhouse I helped build is working really well.  That's always great to hear - sustainability!

Anyways, life is good.  I could turn this blog into what grad school is like, but I think that would a) be boring to everyone and b) be confusing to the people who are looking for stuff on Peace Corps Guyana (all two of them).  So I guess I'll just sporadically update this as Guyana or Peace Corps-related things pop up.  Until next time....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Back Home

Well, I'm done. I finished Peace Corps Guyana. And now I'm back home in America. The 25 months I've spent overseas in South America are over. The overriding emotion is relief to be back. When I had come home for a three week vacation about a year ago, my feeling was mostly giddy joy to see home. But now, though I'm really happy to be home, it feels different. I feel pride for what I did in my time in Guyana, relief to have successfully completed it, and nervousness about returning to America. Peace Corps constantly tells us how hard it will be to return home and re-integrate into our old country. And we internalize those warnings so much that I think it could be a self-fulfilling prophesy. I know I will be probably have some issues about being home at some point, but I also know that I am currently in the honeymoon phase, enjoying everything about being home (hot showers!).

So life is good. I'm hanging around home for the next two months or so, seeing friends, and getting ready for grad school that starts this fall. I don't know if I'll keep this blog updated - I imagine people are much less interested in my goings-about America. But I guess as Peace Corps related things pop up in my life, they might make an appearance here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ecaudorian Fun

After two plus years in Guyana, I´m finally seeing some other South American countries. We left Guyana on April 28th, spending almost 24 hours straight traveling to the northeastern part of Panama for a week-long stay in a beach house in Bocas Del Toros. It was fantastic. There were six of us from my Peace Corps group doing this. We lounged around, ate great food, swam in clear blue waters, saw dolphins play, drank great wine, and generally decompressed after Peace Corps. It was exactly what we needed.

Then we spent about two days in Panama City. It´s an interesting city - very big and developed. But not very touristy. We stayed in Old Town, which was still a bit run-down in parts. But the two days were fun. We had to go to the Peace Corps Panama office to pick something up, so we met the Country Director and saw what a much larger operation they run there (Guyana has around 31 volunteers right now, whereas Panama has about 150). We also went to a mall, which gave me a bit of culture shock. At the food court, it took me about fifteen minutes of walking around in circles before I finally decided what to eat. But also did some of the touristy stuff. We went to the Panama Canal, which was cool. Not only did we see a huge tanker go through (very cool), but we also saw the Black Pearl from the movie ¨Pirates of the Caribbean¨go through! Very random. Anyways, Panama was cool.

Then, about four days ago, we flew down to Quito, Ecaudor. Quito is beautiful, set in between mountains at over 9,000 feet. We were definitely feeling the altitude after two years living about five feet below sea level in Guyana. We stayed in Old Town, which was much nicer and safe than the one in Panama City. There were lots of churches, plazas, shops, and people around. After two days of that, we came down here to Baños. Baños is a outdoor mecca, nestled in a green valley with towering mountains on each side. It definitely caters to foreign and Ecuadorian tourists, with lots of places offering biking, climbing, hiking, rafting, jungle tours, and many other adrenaline options. It´s been a lot of fun so far.

Anyways, traveling has been great. We´ve been eating great food, seeing cool places, and soaking up different cultures. I must say, most of us are not thinking too much about Guyana right now. It´s not that we don´t like that place, but right now I think we´re ready for somewhere new. Just a bit of a vacation after Peace Corps and before the re-introduction to America.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


As of yesterday, I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer. I have finished my two years, so I am now a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. All of us who are leaving feel mixed up emotions - pride and a sense of accomplishment, but sadness about leaving a place we called home for two years. It is definitely bitter sweet. But that's okay - overall, I feel pretty proud of myself. I think we all do.

Okay, I wish I could write more, but my time is limited here. I'm about to start a month and half of traveling around Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia with a few other Peace Corps Volunteers from my group. I'll try to write as I travel.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Towards the End

So my time is winding down. As my host mom now repeatedly reminds me, I can say that I’m leaving “next month.” I should add, this is not a happy thing for her. People are asking me if I’m going to remember them when I go home. When am I going to come back to visit? Why haven’t I found a girl to marry? (That one my co-worker likes to good-naturedly ask me in front of other people. She loves to see my explanations and then accuse me of thinking Guyanese girls are ugly.) So the time is quickly flying by in these last few weeks as I try to wrap up my work and prepare to leave my home for the past two years.

We close our service on Friday April 25th (we being the ten of us left in our group that originally was twenty) and then most of fly out of here the following Monday. As I think I’ve maybe already posted, a group of us are going to travel around Panama, Ecuador, and Columbia for about a month and half before we return to America to begin the reverse-culture-shock fun. I guess that means I need to watch the news to make sure that a war hasn’t broken out between Columbia, Ecuador, and Venezuela when we’re trying to be tourists in two of those countries. But it should be a nice trip that helps us relax before we return to America.

Returning to America should be interesting. We had a three-day conference on basically that topic a few weeks ago. We went over administrative stuff, health care information, how to apply for jobs, resumes, etc. But one of the most interesting topics was the reverse-culture shock. Basically, we were warned to prepare ourselves to be alienated from America and everyone we know there. Ha! People back home either wouldn’t understand what we had done here or probably wouldn’t have the patience to listen to our blathering about it. Of course, these were generalizations, and we knew that some would care when we get home. But even for them, they would have no context and wouldn’t ever quite be able to understand our time down here. It’s like we Peace Corps Volunteers are in a secret club (Skull and Bones? The Bohemian Club?) that only the initiated can understand. And though we want to talk about it and will try, we shouldn’t have high hopes for the lay people. Now, I don’t want to have a holier than thou attitude here. We also need to realize that we aren’t the amazing world-savers that we sometimes like to believe. Though we’ve done something special things down here, so have a lot of our friends or family members back home in the two years we’re been gone. So one of the things we were advised was, to put it bluntly, “to get over yourselves.” No more big fish in a small pond for us. And that reality check is probably good. Sometimes we do get a big head about how challenging it is down here and how easy people have it in America. It’s true that this is hard a lot of the time for reasons that can only be experienced. But we forget how hard America can be. And we need to remember that so we don’t wallow in self-regard when we’re back, pouting because no one seems interested in how San Francisco is so different from Guyana. No one wants to hear how easy they’ve had it anywhere, whether it be in Guyana seemingly trying to herd cats or in America trying to get a foot in a door that may lead to a career after college.

I guess I’m writing this so as to give people a bit of a heads-up on how most returned Peace Corps Volunteers are when they return. I’m only writing about what I anticipate. But from talking to other returned volunteers, they say that it’s mostly harder than they expected. I mean, who expects returning to your home to be hard? Especially after you’ve been fantasizing about all the great food and opportunities you’ve been missing for the past two years. But it turns out it is. And so please bear with us. Listen an extra minute past the usual ten seconds you usually allot for a topic you have nothing to say about. Indulge our wackiness and comments about all the cereal options in supermarkets. We’ve changed down here after two years. We can’t hide it and will need a bit of patience and help to square the new us with the old home.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Things are back to normal

Hey everyone, I just wanted to let people know that things are pretty much back to normal here in Guyana after the massacre a few weeks ago. For those of you who have family or friends who are Peace Corps volunteers down here, you can rest easy that everyone is safe and back to their sites after a brief relocation to safer areas. Things are pretty much normal, though tensions simmer below the surface. But hey, that's how it always is! Anyways, I hope everyone is well. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry about it. Everything is normal enough now.