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.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Happy (belated) Birthday To Me

First off, thanks to all that sent me birthday emails or postings or whatever. Thanks so much. And to those who didn't, no worries. I plan on forgetting everyone's birthdays while I'm down here, so I can't really get angry if someone forgets mine, right?

So yes, I entered my mid-twenties last Wednesay, the 20th. Being 24 is okay, I guess. It's feels pretty much the same. This is especially true because one of my best Peace Corps friends here is a 30 year old guy who acts and feels 16. People sometimes think I'm older than him, especially since I have a beard. So people were surprised when I said I was "only" turning 24. Oh well.

My birthday was actually fun, though I didn't really do anything special. Peace Corps had a training workshop on the other side of Guyana for my group, so I ended up traveling all day with my friends. It was really nice to be surrounded by friends who I hadn't seen in two months. And the workshop went well too. So a good time all around.

Speaking of my group, we have been decimated by some invisible force picking off Peac Corps volunteers. We entered Guyana with 20, but now are staggering about after seven months with only 14. Since we have been sworn in as volunteers (end of April), we've lost at least one volunteer every month. AND, we've lost four of the six guys in the group. That's right. I'm one of two guys left. And the other guy - Paul - is married and in a place where I don't see him much. So... it's me and a bunch of girls. This is kinda funny in fact. During our workshop, all the girls would forget that Paul and I are there, so conversations end of turning towards typically girly stuff. And you should know that there is a lot comfort among Peace Corps volunteers, so these conversations often go towards bodily functions, diets, etc. It's a good thing I'm not fazed by these things. It was pretty funny. Whenever Paul and I would try to talk about baseball or something in the corner, the girls would make a big deal of how we were trying to "guys' talk." It was funny.

So my group is barely getting along. And of those that left, many of them left unexpectedly. So it seems that anyone in my group could be next. That's a little scary. So hopefully we don't lose anyone in October.

Anyways, that's the most interesting thing going on over here. Otherwise, life is good. I'm just working in the health post, talking to mothers about their children, and teaching "life skills" to a local school of juvenile delinquants. I'm also looking to start some sort of drama program in another local school, with the hope that they will do HIV-themed street skits next summer break. My friend Patty and I are slowly working on that. But even if work is still slow, my life is good. I've got a small but growing group of Guyanese friends. Next weekend is a friend's birthday, so we're going to have a huge BBQ at his bar.

Anyways, life is good. Oh yeah, on Sunday I went to an Amerindian village for Heritage Day. We ate laba (an animal from the bush), alligator (which is awesome), cassava bread, and drank pawarhi (which I'm probably spelling wrong). Pawarhi is an alcoholic drink made from grated cassava. It looks like dirty water with things floating in it, but it tastes pretty good. Anyways, it was all a cultural experience, right?

So I hope all is well in America. I have a friend doing Peace Corps in Thailand, and with the military coup, I was a little worried. But apparently she is just fine. Peace Corps says stay in your community, that's all. So that's good. Take care everyone!

Friday, September 08, 2006

The "Peaceful and Credible" Elections

Well, I survived the elections. Which, I must say, was surprisingly easy. Since 1992, every election has been followed by violence, mostly in Georgetown, but also in other parts of Guyana. So why should this one be different? Well, it was. There was pretty much no violence at all. Everyone seemed to be sitting on edge, waiting for something to happen. But nothing did. There seems to be two main reasons. First off, the PPP/C ruling party won in a "landslide" (as they say) victory of 54%. The main opposition party, the PNC-R, took in about 30% I think. In the past, they would have then claimed fraud, not accepted the results, and protests and riots would have ensued. Except this time, the PNC-R accepted the results. So there was no political calls to boycott the results, thereby giving cover for mischief and rioting. Secondly, it seems the people of Guyana did not care this time. Of those eligible to vote, only about 64% turned out, an all time low. There are some questions as to whether that number was low because people have moved to America but are still on the voter rolls (and you must be in country to vote). But even that could not account for the drop in turnout. So I think people just didn't care. And people who don't care are not about to start burning the capital.

So the elections were safe. As the state television station keeps telling us, they were "peaceful and credible." So that's nice. And all our worrying about getting evacuated to America or wherever was unfounded. So life is back to normal here. I'll write more when I get a chance. I hope everyone is well!