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.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

This is Peace Corps?!

So I just got back from spending almost a week at my site. First off, let me apologize. I said I was in Queenstown, but I mistaken. I'm actually in Affiance, a smaller town about one mile down the only road on the Essequibo Coast. So my apologies. I will be working in the Columbia Health Center, which is really the Affiance Health Center, but somehow is in Columbia, a town that begins seamlessly from Affiance without any warning. Confused yet? It really doesn't matter, because I will soon become the white doctor living and working in Affiance. So if you ever come and visit, that's how you can find me.

Yeah, I think I'm going to like this. I feel like I signed up for Posh Corps. My living situation is a little too nice, it seems. I am living with a family that owns a general store. So I live right behind it, in a free standing building right above our kitchen. I say "our" because apparently I am now family. Their home is my home. So anyways, I have my own bedroom and bathroom, which has a normal toilet, sink, and - get this - shower. And honest to god shower. It may not be the best shower, but wow. I was almost enjoying the bucket baths. Now I get a shower. And downstairs is a nicer kitchen than I've had since I moved out of my family's home in San Francisco. And my host mom makes really good food. So I don't know how much I'll be cooking for the next two years. We'll see.

So I'll have a lot more to say once I start working there. It's a small health center with not too much going on. So I expect to start some secondary projects, probably working with HIV/AIDS education. As we all probably don't know, Guyana has the second highest infection rate in the region, the first being Haiti. Though the official number is 3% to 5% infection rate, the real number could be a lot higher because testing is minimal and the stigma against being positive is immense. And even if the official number is right, it's just waiting to explode. So I guess I'm living in a tinderbox.

But before I get you all sad, let me tell you a little story from my time on the Essequibo Coast. Peace Corps is not the only international organization here. Among many others, the U.N. has a doctor program here. The U.N. doctor who has been placed at the main Essequibo Coast Regional Hospital is Dr. Nagesh, a HIV specialist from India. He's been here for the past 6 months, with 18 months to go. So Dr. Nagesh is amazingly nice and intelligent, as well as passionate about fighting HIV/AIDS. And he's friends with a few of the Peace Corps volunteers on the coast. So he invited a few of us over for dinner on Tuesday night. So we show up at his house. But I shouldn't say house - I should say mansion. Apparently the U.N. has very high security standards for it's doctor volunteers, so he was forced to live in a huge, two story, four bedroom mansion, all by himself. It has a perimeter fence, bars on all the windows, etc. Inside it is massive. And it's really funny, because he totally doesn't have enough furniture to fill it up. He's almost ashamed of it, but he had no choice. So we come over and he's making real Indian food, which was fantastic. But first we sit around, and he shows us an Indian magazine he just got from India. Apparently, there is a documentary about him fighting the rise of HIV/AIDS in India - and it's called "Dr. Nagesh." How ridiculous is that? He has a documentary NAMED after him. Not only that, but it got second prize in a French film festival. We're just sitting there, amazed that this wildly talented and brilliant doctor is here in Guyana, making us food. And he was telling me how he was worried I would be under-utilized at my site. Me under-utilized? How about you, Dr. Nagesh? Jeez. So then we have dinner, and he puts on music. The first song? Nas - "NY State of Mind." A gritty, early 90's rap song about New York. I had to put down my fork and start laughing. I mean, this is not quite what I thought Peace Corps is all about. Here I am, drinking the best rum in the world (did I mention we're drinking Guyanese rum, which is world famous), eating Indian food prepared by a famous Indian doctor working with the U.N., sitting in a mansion, listening to Nas. It was a little much for me. This is not the "mud huts on the African Savannah" I imagined when I signed up for Peace Corps. Not that I was complaining.

Anyways, that's life down here. From what I can ascertain, it sounds like Prez Bush broke some laws. Impeachment, anybody? Though that's not Peace Corps talking - that's Mark "crazy liberal from San Francisco" Hejinian talking. So anyways, feel free to let me know how that turns out. Cheers!


At 10:10 PM, Blogger uruiame said...

I grew up in Affiance. What is the name of the family you are staying with?

At 12:51 AM, Blogger ***********************************************************************Through The Eyes Of Hazle Lee said...

Great blog. Isn't it fun to re-read your posts, as strangers leave comments? I just had a phone interview today for PCR in Guyana. I'll have to keep reading!


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