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.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Let's Talk about Guyana

Well, I guess I might as well write a random blog entry. I've been here for about 21 days now. I would be lying if I said it has felt like three weeks. It seems like I've known my fellow volunteers for years. And I feel so much more comfortable in Guyana than I did a mere 20 days ago. But Peace Corps has also crammed an amazing amount of training and education into our time here. So my sense of the length of time we've been here is completely thrown off. And it will continue to be thrown off. For example, we are constantly told that we will largely do no independent projects for the first year at our site. We will just go to work, do what we're told, and go home. It will take us a year before we actually start doing any sort of project - meaning it will be a year before we do the things that people think Peace Corps volunteers do. And we just nod our heads when we hear this, taking it completely at face value. But how crazy is that? Who, in America, would absolutely accept that they will be largely useless for the first year of a two year job? Half their job? It's totally nuts.

Anyways, life is good down here. I'm trying to learn creolese, which really is its own language. Basically, it is English with lots of slang and improper grammar. But in fact, when spoken by strangers quickly (which is normal), it is completely inaudible. It just sounds like sing-songy goobely-gook. It's definitely been a challenge. I have a little 5 year old sister in my host family's house. When I first got there, I probably understood about 10% of what she said to me. Now, I understand about 60%-70%. It's pretty funny actually. But I'm learning it. By the end of my time, I'll be speaking creolese in America. Or at least that's what the volunteers tell us.

Another random thing. The public transportation isn't really public. There are no buses like you would think. There are mini-buses. But they are privately owned and not really regulated at all. They are just vans that have a driver and a conducter, who brings people on and takes their money. But these mini-buses are not normal. They are painted crazy colors and have slogans on them. And they are named. Our favorite bus is Suprise. But we could also take Amari, Aaliyah, Fellina Bosss, Triple P, or some other ones. We've seen Bling-Bling, Tease Me, English, Cash Money, Jay-Z, and pretty much any other random name. They like name themselves after rappers. And they have slogans on the side like "Hate the Game, Not the Player." As you can imagine, they don't drive like your grandma. They pile up to 20 people in a van (with people sitting four to a row and then people on their laps - no, there are not seatbelts) and they go speeding down the roads, swerving into and out of traffic and around cows, horses, bicycles, and whatever else gets in their way. Today, our bus drove on the wrong side of the median for about a block to get around traffic. Awesome. I feel completely safe. But this is the only way around. It's either this, taxi, have your own car, or walk. So... mini-bus it is. But don't worry, no Peace Corps volunteer has died yet in a crash.

There's obviously a whole lot more going on. I could talk about the health care system. There is free health care that focuses on preventive care. But the resources are scarce and the education of the communities is poor. But hey, that's why I'm not doing Peace Corps in France, right? They need me here. One of the biggest problems in all aspects of Guyana is the Brain Drain. Basically, 80% of all educated Guyanese people leave the country. They go to America, Canada, and England. You can't really blame them for leaving. BUT it cripples this country. There are no competent professionals to fill the jobs here. There is a dearth of nurses and doctors in the health field. But this extends to all industries and professional fields in Guyana. It seems to be the largest stumbling block for Guyana. How do you keep people from leaving? Hopefully, I will have a better idea about all this in a few year.

Anyways, please feel free to send me emails. I get caught up in my life down here and don't check my email. But please know that I read every one I get and love you guys for it. And I'm trying to get better at responding. But when it costs $200 an hour for internet? It's hard. hehe.


At 6:33 PM, Blogger Brian said...


My name is Brian Cooper and I am a law student doing a project about Guyana, specifically about HIV/AIDS and women's human rights.

I am an RPCV myself (Kenya, 2000-02) and think that we have a uniquely valuable perspective on our host countries. Few other outsiders see the countries we live in in such depth, especially those areas outside the major cities and towns.

So I'd like to request your help in two areas: 1) your own insights based on your experiences and 2) any contacts with other people in Guyana, whether PCVs or contacts who might have time to talk to me.




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